February 21, 2024

BY ZEKE MILLER and LOLITA C. BALDOR (AP White Home Correspondent)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — President Joe Biden stated Sunday that the U.S. “shall reply” after three American troops have been killed and dozens extra have been injured in an in a single day drone strike in northeast Jordan close to the Syrian border. Biden blamed Iran-backed militias for the primary U.S. fatalities after months of strikes by such teams in opposition to American forces throughout the Center East amid the Israel-Hamas struggle.

Biden, who was touring in South Carolina, requested for a second of silence throughout an look at a Baptist church’s banquet corridor.

“We had a troublesome day final evening within the Center East, and we will reply,” the president stated earlier than requesting silence.

With an growing the chance of navy escalation within the area, U.S. officers have been working to conclusively establish the exact group liable for the assault, however they’ve assessed that one among a number of Iranian-backed teams was behind it.

Biden stated in a written assertion that america “will maintain all these accountable to account at a time and in a fashion (of) our selecting.” Protection Secretary Lloyd Austin stated “we are going to take all needed actions to defend america, our troops, and our pursuits.”

Iran-backed fighters in east Syria started evacuating their posts, fearing U.S. airstrikes, based on Omar Abu Layla, a Europe-based activist who heads the Deir Ezzor 24 media outlet. He informed The Related Press that the areas are the strongholds of Mayadeen and Boukamal.

In accordance with a U.S. official, the variety of troops injured by the one-way assault drone rose to at the very least 34. One other official, who additionally spoke on situation of anonymity to debate particulars not made public, stated a big drone struck the bottom, which two different American officers recognized as an set up in Jordan generally known as Tower 22. It’s alongside the Syrian border and is used largely by troops concerned within the advise-and-assist mission for Jordanian forces.

The small set up, which Jordan doesn’t publicly disclose, consists of U.S. engineering, aviation, logistics and safety troops. Austin stated the troops have been deployed there “to work for the lasting defeat of ISIS.” Three officers stated the drone struck close to the troops’ sleeping quarters, which they stated defined the excessive casualty depend.

The U.S. navy base at al-Tanf in Syria is simply 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of Tower 22. The Jordanian set up offers a essential logistical hub for U.S. forces in Syria, together with these at al-Tanf, which is close to the intersection of the Iraq, Syria and Jordan borders.

Jordanian state tv quoted Muhannad Mubaidin, a authorities spokesman, as insisting the assault occurred throughout the border in Syria.

U.S. troops lengthy have used Jordan, a kingdom bordering Iraq, Israel, the Palestinian territory of the West Financial institution, Saudi Arabia and Syria, as a basing level. Some 3,000 American troops sometimes are stationed throughout Jordan, however the quantity at Tower 22 wasn’t instantly recognized and isn’t routinely disclosed.

For the reason that struggle in Gaza started Oct. 7, Iranian-backed militias have struck American navy installations in Iraq greater than 60 occasions and in Syria greater than 90 occasions, with a mixture of drones, rockets, mortars and ballistic missiles. The assault Sunday was the primary focusing on American troops in Jordan in the course of the Israel-Hamas struggle and the primary to end result within the lack of American lives. Scores of U.S. personnel have been wounded, together with some with traumatic mind accidents, in the course of the assaults.

The militias have stated that their strikes are in retaliation for Washington’s help for Israel within the struggle in Gaza and have additionally stated they goal to push U.S. forces out of the area.

The U.S. in current months has struck targets in Iraq, Syria and Yemen to answer assaults on American forces within the area and to discourage Iran-backed Houthi rebels from persevering with to threaten industrial transport within the Pink Sea.

“I’m assured the Biden Administration will reply in a deliberate and proportional method,” stated Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., who heads the Senate Armed Providers Committee.

Republicans in Congress stated the administration’s strategy had failed to discourage America’s adversaries within the area.

“We’d like a significant reset of our Center East coverage to guard our nationwide safety pursuits,” stated Republican Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, chairman of the Home Overseas Affairs Committee. Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., went additional, urging the administration “to strike targets of significance inside Iran, not solely as reprisal for the killing of our forces, however as deterrence in opposition to future aggression. The one factor the Iranian regime understands is pressure.”

Biden, who was in Columbia, South Carolina, on Sunday, was briefed within the morning by Austin, nationwide safety adviser Jake Sullivan, and principal deputy nationwide safety adviser Jon Finer, White Home press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stated. Within the afternoon, he met nearly with Vice President Kamala Harris and his nationwide safety staff for an replace.

The president, within the written assertion, known as it a “despicable and wholly unjust assault” and stated the service members have been “risking their very own security for the security of their fellow People, and our allies and companions with whom we stand within the combat in opposition to terrorism. It’s a combat we won’t stop.”

Syria remains to be within the midst of a civil struggle and lengthy has been a launch pad for Iranian-backed forces there, together with the Lebanese militia Hezbollah. Iraq has a number of Iranian-backed Shiite militias working there as nicely.

Jordan, a staunch Western ally and a vital energy in Jerusalem for its oversight of holy websites there, is suspected of launching airstrikes in Syria to disrupt drug smugglers, together with one which killed 9 folks earlier this month.

An umbrella group for Iran-backed factions generally known as the Islamic Resistance in Iraq earlier claimed launching explosive drone assaults focusing on three areas in Syria, in addition to one within “occupied Palestine.” The group has claimed accountability for dozens of assaults in opposition to bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria for the reason that Israel-Hamas struggle started.

Three officers with Iran-backed militias in Iraq, who spoke on situation of anonymity as a result of they weren’t approved to debate the matter with journalists, stated the drone assault in opposition to the bottom in Jordan was launched by one of many Iraqi teams. No faction has but formally claimed accountability.

Officers stated the U.S. navy will not be monitoring some other assaults on its forces Sunday within the area.

___

Baldor reported from Washington. Related Press writers Bassem Mroue and Abby Sewell in Beirut, Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad, Omar Akour in Amman, Jordan and Jon Gambrell in Jerusalem contributed to this report.