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US-led forces thwart drone attack on US base in Syria

A Soldier deployed to At-Tanf Garrison, Syria, hangs an 81 mm mortar round in preparation to fire during a readiness exercise on April 22, 2020. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. William Howard)
August 15, 2022

Aerial drones attacked U.S.-led forces near Al-Tanf Garrison in southeast Syria early Monday, prompting forces to launch a defense attack, the U.S.-led Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve announced in a statement.

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“Coalition Forces successfully engaged one UAS preventing its impact. A second UAS detonated within a MaT forces compound resulting in zero casualties or reported damage. The other attempted one-way UAS strikes were not successful,” the statement said.

U.S. Central Command also confirmed the attempted attack and shared a photo of the drone wreckage.

The Al-Tanf Garrison is a base run by U.S. troops and U.S.-backed Syrian opposition fighters known as Maghaweir al-Thowra (MaT). It’s located near a highway border crossing with Iraq which is commonly used for Iran to smuggle weapons to Syria.

U.S. troops have been in Syria to fight ISIS since 2014. Several hundred of them remain, down from approximately 900 last year.

Commander of CJTF-OIR said, “Such attacks put the lives of innocent Syrian civilians at risk and undermine the significant efforts by our Partner Forces to maintain the lasting defeat of ISIS,” Brennan said. “Coalition personnel retain the right to self-defense, and we will take appropriate measures to protect our forces.”

MaT posted photos showing what appear to be the wreckage of at least one drone.

“This morning, Al Tanf was attacked by enemy drones equipped with explosives intended to kill our soldiers. The MaT and US Forces responded with courage, suffering no casualties. We  stand together ready to defend the 55km and fight for a free Syria,” MaT said.

In October 2021, Al-Tanf was hit by a “deliberate and coordinated” drone attack involving five drones armed with explosives. The attack was believed to have been carried out by Iran-backed forces. No U.S. troops were injured in the attack.

Just two days after the attack, a U.S. drone strike killed senior Al Qaeda leader Abdul Hamid al-Matar in northwestern Syria. A month prior, another U.S. strike killed senior Al Qaeda leader Salim Abu-Ahmad also in northwestern Syria.

Former CENTCOM commander Gen. Frank McKenzie said in March that “remnants of ISIS remain both in Iraq and Syria,” and remains the primary reason for U.S. troops to continue supporting Syrian forces there. McKenzie added that “our forces are at risk, whether we’re in Iraq or Syria.”

At the time, McKenzie had said U.S. forces were “attacked a number of times” in Syria and Iraq over the preceding six months. “Through very good action on the part of commanders on the ground, through good counter-UAS action and a couple other things, we’ve been able to avoid U.S. casualties,” he said.