Drone strikes on US bases injure two dozen troops
American troops have been targeted by drones and rockets at least ten times in Iraq and three times in Syria since October 17, according to Pentagon officials. Washington has accused Iran-backed militias, but admitted there is no evidence to pin blame on Tehran's leadership for ordering the attacks.
Twenty American troops suffered “minor injuries” when two attack drones targeted Al-Tanf military base in southern Syria on October 18, the US Central Command told NBC News on Tuesday in a first confirmation of American casualties.
Another four US personnel were injured in two drone attacks against American forces deployed at Al-Asad base in western Iraq. On a separate occasion at the same base, a US civilian contractor died of a “cardiac episode” while taking cover from a suspected drone attack that never actually took place.
Overall, between October 17 and 24, the US-led coalition forces have been attacked at least 13 times “via a mix of one way attack drones and rockets,” Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday, adding that CENTCOM has yet to provide a “comprehensive list” of attacks and resulting casualties for the public record.
When asked if the Pentagon believes that Iran was responsible for these attacks, the spokesman claimed that we “know that the groups conducting these attacks are supported by the IRGC and the Iranian regime.”
The White House and the Pentagon have indicated they believe Iran was the force behind the recent string of attacks on US bases. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken both claimed over the weekend that there was a “likelihood of escalation of violence” by Iranian proxies. Tehran is “actively facilitating” these attacks, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Monday, accusing Iran of also supporting the militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah in their conflict with Israel.
The US maintains about 2,500 troops in Iraq, while up to 1,000 American soldiers are currently deployed in Syria, occupying key oil fields and Euphrates river crossings with the support of a Kurdish-led militia. The government in Damascus has repeatedly protested that their presence violates international law.