FARGO — Mike Haugen, a retired major general who commanded North Dakota Air and Army National Guard forces in the early 2000s, said Tuesday, Jan. 14, that the death of Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, was an act of justice, not revenge.
Haugen said that based on Army intelligence he was privy to, at least four overseas deaths of North Dakota Guard members could be tied to Soleimani's involvement in supporting covert military actions in places like Iraq.
He said he remembers one soldier in particular who died from wounds caused by an improvised explosive device that detonated under an armored vehicle he was riding in.
Haugen said the soldier had taken added precautions, including outfitting the vehicle's floor with sandbags to help absorb any explosions they might encounter.
He said the modification might have been enough to protect the soldier from most run-of-the-mill IEDs being used at the time, but he said devices provided by forces commanded by Soleimani were sophisticated shaped charges, which had more powerful penetrating power.
Haugen, who assumed the duties of the Adjutant General of North Dakota on Dec. 19, 2000, said based on information the Army provided, the deaths of at least four North Dakota soldiers can be tied to Soleimani's activities.
"This wasn't revenge; this was justice," Haugen said, referring to the U.S.-led drone strike on the Baghdad International Airport that killed Soleimani.
The airstrike followed an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
The U.S. Department of Defense has said President Donald Trump directed U.S. military forces to kill Soleimani in an effort to defend U.S. personnel abroad.
The president said via Twitter that Soleimani was involved in the deaths of thousands of Americans over an extended period of time.