U.S. State Department on Sunday updated its travel advisory for Iraq, urging Americans not to visit the Middle Eastern country. Photo by Qatar's FM/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 22 (UPI) -- The United States on Sunday advised Americans against traveling to Iraq, after U.S. military and personnel in the Middle Eastern country have come under attack in recent days.
In the advisory, the State Department listed Iraq under its highest level 4: Do Not Travel due to terrorism, kidnapping, armed conflict and civil unrest.
The advisory was issued after the State Department on Friday ordered the departure of all family members and non-emergency U.S. government personnel from its U.S. embassy in Baghdad and consulate general in Erbil over increased security threats targeting American government officials and interests.
"U.S. citizens in Iraq face high risks to their safety and security, including the potential for violence and kidnapping," the advisory said.
"Terrorist and insurgent groups regularly attack Iraqi security forces and civilians. Anti-U.S. militias threaten U.S. citizens and international companies throughout Iraq," the warning continued. "Attacks using improvised explosive devices, indirect fire and unmanned aerial vehicles occur in many areas of the country, including Baghdad and other major cities."
The U.S. military in Iraq and Syria have recently come under a series of attacks by Iran-backed militias in response to Israel's war against Hamas.
On Saturday, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin redirected the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group to the Middle East to increase the U.S. force posture in the region. He also activated a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense battery and additional Patriot battalions to increase force protection.
Additional forces have also been prepared for deployment, he said.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken touring the Sunday news circuit said that the Biden administration is concerned about the surge in attacks against U.S. personnel by Iranian proxies and that they expect the threat to increase.
"We are taking steps to make sure that we can effectively defend our people and respond decisively if we need to," he told Kristen Welker on NBC's Meet the Press. "This is not what we want, not what we're looking for. We don't want escalation."