More than 30 service members were injured in the attack, including several who were diagnosed with traumatic brain injury, according to a U.S. official. Those troops were some of the eight who were medically evacuated from the base to another facility in Jordan for additional care, the official said, adding that some were being assessed for transport out of the country for follow-up care.
Meanwhile, the DOD official and a second U.S. official told POLITICO that an hour and a half after the strike on the small base, known as Tower 22, Iranian proxies launched another drone at a U.S. base just across the border in Syria, al-Tanf Garrison. A U.S. drone,
RTX’s Coyote uncrewed aerial system, shot it down, the DOD official added.
Tower 22 and al-Tanf Garrison are just kilometers apart, and U.S. drones often defend both, the DOD official said.
The news comes as the Pentagon is still gathering information about how a drone launched by Iranian proxies penetrated U.S. defenses and struck the living quarters at Tower 22, a strike that also injured at least 34 more service members.
The Wall Street Journal was
first to report that the enemy drone approached as a U.S. drone was also returning to base, although officials quoted in that report said the simultaneous approaches created confusion.
Biden on Sunday said the U.S. “shall respond,” but the strikes continued on Monday, with Iranian proxies launching an attack at U.S. patrol base al-Shaddadi, in northeast Syria, according to the second U.S. official. Overall, U.S. troops have been attacked 165 times since Oct. 17: 66 times in Iraq; 98 in Syria; and once in Jordan, the official said.
Tower 22 is a small outpost typically housing only 300 to 350 troops, said retired Gen. Joseph Votel, who served as head of U.S. Central Command from 2016 to 2019. The base in Jordan sits close to the triple border with Syria and Iraq, and is attached to the Rukban refugee camp.
The base serves as a crossing point for U.S. special operations forces moving into Syria, and is a a logistics hub supporting the fight in Syria against the Islamic State, Votel said. U.S. training of Jordanian forces also takes place there, he said.
The living quarters at Tower 22 are “very temporary,” he said. “You would not find brick-and-mortar buildings at a location like that.”
Republican members of Congress on Sunday
called on Biden to target Iran directly in response. On Monday, former senior military officials joined in, as retired Adm. James Stavridis, the former supreme allied commander of NATO,
proposed seizing an Iranian naval or commercial vessel.
Votel in an interview urged Biden to send an “unambiguous” message that the U.S. holds Iran responsible. Washington should consider striking assets “of value to Iran and [causing] them to pay a price for this,” he said, for instance taking out leaders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps or Quds Force, or sites associated with those organizations.
A U.S. strike on Iranian soil “shouldn’t be off the table,” but is only one of the options that should be considered, he said.
“Iran, I think, is responsible for this,” Votel said. “Iran is always trying to push the limits as far as they can go.”
Matt Berg contributed to this report.