More drones targeting US troops in Syria shot down, Pentagon says
Stars and Stripes October 23, 2023
WASHINGTON — Two drones targeting U.S. troops in Syria were shot down early Monday in the latest of several recent attacks on American forces in the Middle East, the Pentagon confirmed.
Troops at U.S. garrison al-Tanf in southeastern Syria took down two, one-way attack drones, according to Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the top Pentagon spokesman. No injuries occurred during the attack.
This is the second time since Thursday that troops at al-Tanf have been targeted. Since last week, there have been several attacks on U.S. forces in the region.
“We have seen this increase in rocket and [drone] attacks against our bases and our facilities in Iraq and Syria. We are going to do everything we need to do to ensure our forces are protected,” Ryder said.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Saturday activated the deployment of two types of missile defense systems that include a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, and additional Patriot battalions to bases in the region.
Some 900 U.S. troops are deployed to Syria in a mission that the Pentagon has said is focused on opposing the Islamic State terrorist group.
Roughly 2,500 U.S. troops are deployed to Iraq, where they officially act in an advisory role. The U.S. combat mission in that country ended in 2021.
The latest attack in Syria follows drone strikes at installations housing U.S. troops throughout Iraq and Syria as militant groups in the region respond in the aftermath of Hamas militants launching an attack from Gaza on Oct. 7 against Israel.
Last Friday, two rockets targeted U.S. and allied troops early in the morning at the Baghdad international airport, a defense official said. Air defenses shot down one rocket and the other struck an empty storage facility. No injuries occurred.
Also Friday, Reuters reported a rocket and drone attack caused multiple blasts at another Iraqi base with U.S. troops. U.S. Central Command has not confirmed the attack.
The USS Carney, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, shot down about 15 drones and four land-to-air cruise missiles on Thursday in the northern Red Sea. The attack was launched from Yemen, and a defense official said the weapons could have been targeting Israel.
Another drone attack at al-Tanf on Thursday caused minor injuries, U.S. officials said. On Wednesday, U.S. forces shot down one drone and damaged another at al Asad Air Base in western Iraq. The attack on Wednesday led to the death of a U.S. defense contractor due to a heart problem that happened while scrambling for cover during an alert warning, Ryder said.
An umbrella group of Iranian-backed militias known as the Islamic Resistance in Iraq claimed responsibility for the attack on al Asad as well as another on a base in northern Iraq, The Associated Press reported last week.
The uptick in violence across the Middle East followed an explosion last week at a Gaza hospital that killed scores of people, though the exact number remains unclear.
Ryder said Monday that Iran-backed groups are behind the attacks in Iraq and Syria, but the U.S. does not have direct evidence that Iran ordered the strikes against American troops in the region.
“We don’t necessarily see that Iran has explicitly ordered them to take these kinds of attacks. That said, by virtue of the fact they are supported by Iran, we will ultimately hold Iran responsible,” he said.