The Pentagon announced Monday that forces in Syria shot down two more drones near the Al-Tanf garrison, bringing the total number of confirmed attacks on US forces in Iraq and Syria over the past week to four.
As the United States moves its assets across the Middle East to support Israel in its fight against Hamas and deter attacks by other militants, the number of attempts to strike nearby American forces has increased sharply.
A senior military official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, told reporters on Monday: “They have had an increase in attacks actually over the last three days or so in various locations” throughout U.S. Central Command. “So this is a clear indication that additional force protection measures are needed, and this is what the minister ordered,” he added.
A senior defense official told reporters that the Pentagon is still compiling a full list of recent attacks to share.
Following the October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas, the United States ordered two aircraft carrier strike groups to the eastern Mediterranean, along with an amphibious ready group with a Marine expeditionary unit. Several Air Force fighters have also been transferred to the area, and another 2,000 soldiers are under orders to prepare for deployment 24 hours a day.
Initially intended to deter further attacks on Israel, the moves are now part of a larger effort to protect US forces already in the region — including 2,500 troops in Iraq and 900 more in Syria — for counter-ISIS missions.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Saturday also activated A High Altitude Area Defense Battery Additional battalions of air defense with Patriot missiles were sent to sites in the US Central Command to protect American forces.
“We see the potential for much greater escalation against American forces and personnel in the near term,” a senior defense official told reporters. And let us be clear about this: the road leads to Iran. Iran has funded, armed, equipped, and trained militias and proxy forces throughout the region.
While US forces in US Central Command have seen occasional drone attacks in recent years, last week saw a significant spike.
An American contractor was killed earlier this year during a similar surge in attacks, prompting US forces to launch a retaliatory strike. Defense officials have not said whether they plan to take the same action this time.
“Let me repeat once again what you have heard our senior leaders in this government say: We always reserve the right to defend ourselves and will never hesitate to take action when needed to protect our forces and interests abroad.” The defense official said. “Any response will come at a time and manner of our choosing.”
Megan Myers is Military Times’ Pentagon bureau chief. It covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.
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