3 U.S. troops killed, 25 injured in drone attack near Syrian border
AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:
There's been a deadly attack on U.S. forces in the Middle East. The White House says three service people were killed in a drone attack in Jordan, near the Syrian border. The Pentagon says 25 more were injured. NPR's Jane Arraf joins us from the Jordanian capital, Amman. Jane, welcome to the program.
JANE ARRAF, BYLINE: Thank you.
RASCOE: Jane, what do we know?
ARRAF: Well, President Biden said in a statement that the drone attack was on U.S. forces stationed in northeast Jordan near the Syrian border. And he said it was Iran-backed militia groups operating from Iraq and Syria. He sent condolences to the families, of course, and he ended the statement with the line saying the U.S. would retaliate at, quote, "a time and manner of our choosing." We have to point out that Jordan is denying that the attack took place on its soil. Information Minister Muhannad Mubaidin is saying it was the Al-Tanf base, which is a remote U.S. base just across the border in Syria. That could possibly be because the presence of U.S. forces in Jordan is controversial right now. A U.S. defense official has confirmed with NPR's Tom Bowman that a drone strike hit Tower 22, a support base in Jordan near the border, and likely hit a barracks. A group of Iran-backed militias, meanwhile, are saying they actually struck three U.S. bases.
RASCOE: Is anyone claiming responsibility?
ARRAF: Someone is. It's the Islamic resistance in Iraq, which is a group of Iran-backed militias that operate in Iraq and Syria. They say they attacked three U.S. bases and an Israeli one with drones before dawn. The group said the bases were Al-Tanf, Al-Rukban and Al-Shaddadi. Rukban is on the Syrian-Jordanian border, while the other two are in Syria. There's no confirmation of three attacks on U.S. bases or on the strike the group says it launched on an Israeli naval base. But it does say the attacks were in retaliation to what it called the massacres of Palestinians in Gaza and to resisting what it calls the American occupation in Iraq.
RASCOE: So tell us about those bases and what U.S. forces are doing there.
ARRAF: Well, the U.S. still, in addition to about 2,500 troops that it has in Iraq, has about 900 troops in Syria. They've been fighting ISIS. They've been keeping a presence near oil wells there. And importantly, they've been keeping an eye on Iran. The Al-Tanf base has always been an irritant to Iranian groups who believe it's basically just there to spy on them. We have to keep in mind that ISIS is a continuing presence in that part of Syria, in eastern Syria and in northeastern Syria, where the Kurdish, the Syrian Kurds, are security partners of the U.S. There's a major fear that if the U.S. withdraws, which is the feeling in Iraq certainly, because of these continued attacks on U.S. bases, they would also withdraw from Syria.
RASCOE: So quickly, in the few seconds we have left, what happens next?
ARRAF: Well, the U.S. will have to retaliate. The war in Gaza, you know, was feared by everyone to have wider effects, but few people expected it to be in Jordan. The Jordanian public is already enraged. And the big question is what happens with the Iran-backed militias, with the U.S. saying it will retaliate?
RASCOE: That's NPR's Jane Arraf. Thank you so much, Jane.
ARRAF: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
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