White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan on Sunday pushed back on House Speaker Mike Johnson’s (R-La.) suggestion that the administration waited too long to retaliate for the killing of three U.S. troops in the Middle East last week.
On Friday, the U.S. launched its first round of airstrikes on Iranian-backed groups in Syria and Iraq in retaliation for an attack on a base in Jordan that left three American troops dead and about 40 others injured.
Johnson, following the strikes, said the deadly drone strike in Jordan “demanded a clear and forceful response.”
“Unfortunately, the administration waited for a week and telegraphed to the world, including to Iran, the nature of our response,” Johnson said in a statement.
Asked on NBC News’s “Meet the Press” for a response to Johnson’s remarks, Sullivan said, “Well, I find it somewhat strange.”
“The president made clear before we were attacked at Tower 22 in Jordan, before our brave services members were tragically killed, that if we were attacked, we would respond,” Sullivan said Sunday. “So, Iran and its military groups knew that the United States was going to respond. We also said we’d do it at a time and place of our choosing. We planned the attack. We executed the attack.”
“We hit where we wanted to hit, when we wanted to hit, and that was at the military advice of the president’s commanders, and he gave them the order to go ahead and do it.”
Sullivan said U.S. forces are still assessing the number of casualties among the militia groups, while noting U.S. officials believe the strikes had “good effect and degrading capability” to the militant groups.
The Pentagon last Friday said more than 85 targets were hit in the first round of strikes in Iraq and Syria against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force “and affiliated militia groups.”
Sullivan said the White House is “confident” in the steps it has taken so far and those it will take moving forward.
Earlier in the interview, Sullivan confirmed the U.S. “intends” to launch additional strikes and that Friday was “not the end of it.”
“It began with strikes on Friday night, but that is not the end of it. We intend to take additional strikes and additional action to continue to send a clear message that that the United States will respond when our forces are attacked, or people are killed,” Sullivan told NBC News’s Kristen Welker.
The U.S., alongside the United Kingdom, on Saturday launched a second round of strikes against 13 locations associated with the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen, which has waged a series of missile and drone attacks against commercial and military ships in the Red Sea in recent months. These attacks have disrupted trade routes and destabilized the Red Sea region.
The Hill reached out to Johnson’s office for comment.