Situation Report: Drone strike hits US outpost in southern Syria

On October 20, unidentified drones attacked a remote U.S. base in southern Syria located near the border with Jordan. Explosions were first heard on the al-Tanf garrison, which houses about 200 Americans as well a local rebel militia group. No injuries or fatalities have been reported, although U.S. officials are still investigating the damage of the attack.

According to Al-Monitor, the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) confirmed the incident was a “deliberate and coordinated attack,” adding that “We (CENTCOM) maintain the inherent right of self-defense and will respond at a time and place of our choosing.”

Other than in the Kurdish-controlled region, Al-Tanf is the only outpost in Syria where a large number of U.S. military troops are present. American troops have been stationed at al-Tanf since 2016, when the U.S. began coordinating anti-ISIS training. The American presence in this southern outpost also helps keep Iran at bay.

Although no group has claimed responsibility for this attack yet, it mirrors past rocket and drone campaigns carried out by Iranian militias. Tehran directs various proxy groups in Syria and has been accused of launching similar attacks in recent months. In June, U.S. officials blamed Iranian-backed Shiite militias of carrying out multiple rockets that hit a U.S. base in eastern Syria. A few days prior, President Biden authorized defensive precision airstrikes targeting Iran-linked assets along the Iraq-Syria border, killing five militants.

Iranian-backed militias have launched dozens of rocket attacks targeting U.S. military and diplomatic sites in Iraq since the January 2020 killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. (IRGC) Commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani. However, rocket attacks in Syria are quite rare. The al-Tanf attack is an escalation and America’s response will be scrutinized by our allies and adversaries alike.

In addition to carrying out an increased number rocket attacks in recent months, Iranian militias are using more sophisticated and lethal weaponry in their campaigns. In June, the Commander of CENTCOM expressed his concern for the militants’ use of unmanned aerial systems after an Iraqi airbase housing U.S. troops was attacked.

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Author: Maya Carlin

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