Three American Troops Killed During Iran-Backed Militia Drone Attack in Jordan

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What to Know:

The United States has confirmed that three American servicemen were killed, and at least two dozen others were wounded during an Iran-backed militia explosive drone attack carried out against the Tower-22 outpost in Jordan, which sits along the border with Syria.

The Attack:

While exact details remain unclear, statements by United States President Joe Biden and the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) confirmed that three servicemen were killed during an explosive drone attack carried out by Iran-backed Shia militia forces. The target of the attack was the Tower-22, or T-22, outpost in northeastern Jordan, where American forces are stationed as part of advise-and-assist missions with the Jordanian military.

“On Jan. 28, three U.S. service members were killed and 25 injured from a one-way attack UAS that impacted at a base in northeast Jordan, near the Syria border,” CENTCOM reported.

In a statement, United States President Joe Biden said that:

“Today, America’s heart is heavy. Last night, three U.S. service members were killed—and many wounded—during an unmanned aerial drone attack on our forces stationed in northeast Jordan near the Syria border. While we are still gathering the facts of this attack, we know it was carried out by radical Iran-backed militant groups operating in Syria and Iraq.”

“The three American service members we lost were patriots in the highest sense. And their ultimate sacrifice will never be forgotten by our nation. Together, we will keep the sacred obligation we bear to their families. We will strive to be worthy of their honor and valor. We will carry on their commitment to fight terrorism. And have no doubt — we will hold all those responsible to account at a time and in a manner of our choosing,” the statement added.

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella organization of Iran-backed Shia militias that have been responsible for nearly 200 attacks against American forces in Iraq and Syria in recent months, has claimed responsibility for the attack.

In a statement, the group stated that it has carried out drone attacks against a number of American military installations, such as in al-Rukban, which is where the T-22 outpost is located. More specifically, this attack was likely carried out in part by elements of Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, who had also claimed involvement, as well as Kataib Hezbollah.

Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, an Iran-backed Shia militia that is part of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), has previously been involved in attacks against United States military forces in Iraq as part of the Islamic Resistance in Iraq and was the target of previous retaliatory American airstrikes. Earlier this month, Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba Commander Abu Taqwa al-Saeedi was killed during an American airstrike on a PMF base in eastern Baghdad, Iraq.

Why This Matters:

This marks the first time that American forces were killed directly by strikes carried out by Iran-backed militia elements since attacks began on October 17. Over the past few months, American forces have faced nearly 200 drone and rocket attacks by these militias against military installations in Iraq and Syria, resulting in dozens of TBI-related injuries.

The most recent strikes put the United States in the position where it will need to respond to avoid further emboldening militia forces. Since October 17, the American response to continued attacks has been described by some as relatively reserved, as only a handful of strikes have targeted Iranian IRGC and Shia militia-linked targets in Iraq and Syria. Retaliation, however, always runs the risk of continued escalation, which comes amid rumblings of the United States wanting to withdraw from the region.

American strikes against Islamic Resistance in Iraq leadership, such as those a part of Kataib Hezbollah and Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, and IRGC-militia infrastructure are expected to be carried out in Iraq and Syria in the near future.