Three U.S. Army soldiers lost their lives and more than 30 service members were injured in a drone attack on a small U.S. outpost in Tower 22, Jordan. This is the first time that U.S. troops have been killed by enemy fire in the Middle East since the beginning of the Gaza war.
The drone attack occurred overnight at Tower 22 in Jordan, near the border with Syria. U.S. officials informed CNN that the drone was fired by Iran-backed militants, possibly originating from Syria. The specific militia group responsible is still under investigation.
U.S. Central Command confirmed the casualties, stating that three service members were killed at Tower 22, and at least 34 were injured in the one-way drone attack that impacted a base in northeast Jordan.
Eight injured service members were medically evacuated for higher-level care. The number of wounded is expected to rise as service members seek treatment for symptoms consistent with brain injury.
President Joe Biden, speaking in South Carolina, a response, stating, We shall respond. While the investigation is ongoing, Biden attributed the attack to radical Iran-backed militant groups operating in Syria and Iraq.
Iran denied any involvement in the Tower 22 attack. Tehran’s denial, as reported by the state news agency IRNA, called the accusations of Iranian involvement baseless.
Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani addressed that regional resistance groups do not take orders from Iran, “We believe the region does not need more tension or a new war.”
The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella group of Iran-backed militias, claimed responsibility for attacking several targets along the Jordan-Syria border, including the vicinity of the U.S. outpost Tower 22. This claim was made before the U.S. officially announced the casualties.
As of Friday, there had been over 158 attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq and Syria. The constant barrage of drones, rockets, and missiles has been described as largely unsuccessful.
The U.S. has previously taken retaliatory actions against Iran-backed groups in Iraq and Syria. Recently, the U.S. struck three facilities in Iraq used by Kataib Hezbollah and other Iran-affiliated groups.
The U.S. has engaged with Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen, conducting multiple strikes with the UK and other allies on Houthi missiles, drones, radar systems, and storage facilities.
Israel continues its campaign in Gaza against Hamas following a terror attack on October 7. The conflict has resulted in a huge number of casualties, with over 25,000 people estimated to have been killed and tens of thousands more injured, according to the Hamas-run Ministry of Health in Gaza.
Israel is also targeting Hezbollah in Lebanon, striking sites in southern Lebanon with artillery and fighter jets.
The Biden administration faced criticism, primarily from Republicans, for not taking what is perceived as strong enough action against Iran-backed groups for their attacks.
Senator Lindsey Graham, in a statement, criticized the Biden administration’s policy of deterrence against Iran as having failed and called for strikes on targets inside Iran.
Senator Roger Wicker, the highest-ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, called for a direct response against Iranian targets and its leadership.
House Armed Services Chairman Mike Rogers said that it is “long past time for President Biden to finally hold the terrorist Iranian regime and their extremist proxies accountable.”
Tower 22, the military base targeted in the drone attack, is located in northeastern Jordan, close to the Syrian border.
As of October 2023, there were approximately 350 U.S. Army and Air Force personnel deployed to the base, conducting support functions, including support to the coalition for the lasting defeat of ISIS. The outpost Tower 22 is part of an advise-and-assist mission with Jordan.
The reasons for the air defenses’ failure to intercept the drone remain unclear. It appears to be the first known attack on Tower 22 since assaults on U.S. and coalition forces began on October 17.
U.S. officials have addressed a desire to avoid tensions over Tower 22 into a regional war. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. CQ Brown stated the goal is to deter conflicts.
There have been dozens of injuries in the attacks, with a senior military official mentioning roughly 70 injuries.
The Pentagon has classified most of them as minor, except for one U.S. soldier injured in an attack in Iraq on Christmas Day.