Confusion preceded deadly drone attack in Jordan, US officials say


The Pentagon on Monday identified the dead soldiers as Sgt. William Jerome Rivers, 46, of Carrollton, Georgia; Specifications. Kennedy Ladon Sanders, 24, of Waycross, Georgia; and specifications. Breonna Alexsondria Moffett, 23, of Savannah, Georgia. All three were assigned to the 718th Engineer Company, 926th Engineer Battalion, 926th Engineer Brigade, an Army Reserve unit based at Fort Moore, Georgia.

The drone attack on the outpost in northeastern Jordan near its borders with Syria and Iraq, called Tower 22, escalated hostilities in the region that have been escalating since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel and the subsequent war in Gaza.

Biden has vowed to retaliate and met for the second day in a row with his top national security advisers on Monday to discuss possible targets in Syria, Iraq and Iran. Senior U.S. officials said attacking Iran directly was less likely, although the U.S. military has drawn up plans to attack Iranian military advisers and trainers in Iraq and Syria in the event that Iranian-backed militias in the Middle East kill U.S. troops.

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III, on his first day back to work at the Pentagon since his surgery last month for prostate cancer, condemned the attacks and vowed retaliation.

“Let me begin with my outrage and grief at the deaths of three brave American soldiers in Jordan and for the other soldiers who were injured,” Austin said before meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. “The president and I will not tolerate attacks on American forces and will take all necessary measures to defend the United States and our troops.”

The drone strike in Jordan underscored that Iranian-backed militias – whether in Iran or Syria, or the Houthis in Yemen – remained capable of inflicting serious consequences on US troops despite the US military’s efforts to weaken them. and avoid falling into a broader conflict. possibly with Iran itself.

U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria, and now Jordan, have been attacked at least 165 times since October: 66 times in Iraq, 98 times in Syria and Sunday’s attack in Jordan, the Pentagon said Monday. More than 80 service members had suffered injuries, including brain trauma, before the latest barrage.

“We know that Iran supports these groups,” National Security Council spokesman John F. Kirby said Monday. “We know that they give them resources, we know that they train them. “We know they are certainly not discouraging these attacks.”

But Kirby added: “The degree to which they command and direct is something that intelligence analysts will examine.”

Pressed repeatedly in briefings with reporters on Monday about when and how the United States would respond, Kirby and Singh declined to comment on specific options. They stressed that the administration was seeking to avoid a broader war in the region, even as they blamed the attack for escalating tensions.

“We are not seeking war with Iran,” Kirby said. “But the attacks have to stop.”

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said Monday that he would not “telegraph” any potential U.S. response, but that such action “could be multi-layered, carried out in stages and sustained over time.”

Blinken added: “This is an incredibly volatile time in the Middle East. “I would say we have not seen a situation as dangerous as the one we now face across the region since at least 1973, and possibly even before that.”

For its part, Iran on Monday denied any link to the attack and blamed Washington for provoking tensions in the region.

About 350 Army and Air Force personnel are deployed at the Tower 22 border post. It serves as a logistics and resupply center for the nearby Al Tanf garrison in southeastern Syria, where U.S. troops work with local Syrian partners to fight the remnants of the Islamic State.

The one-way attack drone struck near housing at the outpost, causing injuries ranging from minor cuts to brain trauma, a U.S. military official said. Eight American service members were flown to Iraq for medical care, and three of them were expected to be flown to Germany for even more advanced treatment, Ms. Singh said.

Soldiers and airmen lived in container housing units, Ms. Singh said, essentially aluminum boxes a little larger than a commercial shipping container. They have linoleum floors and cots or beds inside, and can be easily transported on trucks.

“What’s different about this attack is where it landed,” Singh said. “It was quite early in the morning, so people were in their beds when the drone hit.”

Michael Crowley contributed reports.

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