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Biden says he's decided on response to drone attack that killed American troops in Jordan

According to local reports, the Pentagon is planning "waves of attacks" on Iran-backed forces as Biden faces pressure to respond without escalating a wider war. At least three American troops were killed and around 40 injured after a drone struck US base Tower 22 in Jordan.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Washington Published on: January 31, 2024 7:14 IST
United States, Joe Biden, Iran backed groups, drone attack in Jordan
Image Source : REUTERS US President Joe Biden briefed on the situation in Iran.

Washington: US President Joe Biden on Tuesday (local time) said he had decided on how to respond to a drone attack that claimed the lives of three American soldiers in Jordan, amid increasing pressure on punishing Iran-backed groups in the Middle East without further escalating the precarious situation caused by the Israel-Hamas war. However, the US President did not elaborate on his decision which came after intense consultations with his advisors in the White House.

"It's fair for you to expect that we will respond in an appropriate fashion and it is very possible that what you'll see is a tiered approach here, not just a single action, but essentially multiple actions," said White House national security spokesperson John Kirby. This came after Biden said the US does not need a wider war in the Middle East, echoing comments from other officials on Tuesday.

"I don't think we need a wider war in the Middle East. That's not what I'm looking for," said Biden. He replied yes" when asked if he had decided how to respond to the attacks and said he held Iran responsible for supplying weapons to those who carried out the attacks against US forces stationed in the Middle East. A US official told the Associated Press that the Pentagon is still assessing options to respond to the attack in Jordan.

Iran-backed militia suspends operations

According to the Pentagon, the US believes that the attack that killed three US troops on the Jordanian-Syrian border has the "footprints" of the Iraqi militia Kataib Hezbollah, which was formed in the aftermath of the US-led invasion of Iraq. Kataib Hezbollah is the most powerful armed faction in the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella group of hardline Shi'ite armed groups that have claimed more than 150 attacks on US forces since the Gaza war began.

However, the militia announced on Tuesday the "suspension of military and security operations against the occupation forces in order to prevent embarrassment to the Iraqi government". This comes after attacks on US forces by Iraqi militias have placed the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani in an awkward position, as it came to power with the backing of Iran-aligned factions but also tries to maintain good ties with Washington.

Additionally, Biden spoke with the soldiers’ families on Tuesday morning and extended his condolences, pledging full assistance to the families. The dignified transfer of the soldiers' remains will take place at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Friday, with Biden attending the ceremony. 

The Pentagon identified those killed in the attack as Sgt. William Jerome Rivers, 46, of Carrollton, Georgia; Spc. Kennedy Ladon Sanders, 24, of Waycross, Georgia; and Spc. Breonna Alexsondria Moffett, 23, of Savannah, Georgia. The Army Reserve announced on Tuesday that it had posthumously promoted Sanders and Moffett to the rank of sergeant.

There have been a total of 166 attacks on US military installations since October 18, including 67 in Iraq, 98 in Syria and now one in Jordan, a US military official said. The three soldiers killed in the Jordan strike were the first US military fatalities in the Middle East since the war between Israel and Hamas broke out. One contractor has also died as the result of a heart attack after a strike on Al-Asad in December.

A case of mistaken drone identity

US forces may have mistaken an enemy drone allegedly launched by Iran-backed groups for an American one and let it pass unchallenged into a desert base in Jordan where it killed three soldiers and wounded more than 40 others, officials said on Monday based on the findings of a preliminary report. This comes as the US faces a steep task of conducting a retaliatory action without causing any further escalation of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

The attack hit a US military desert outpost in the far reaches of northeastern Jordan known as Tower 22, located near the demilitarised zone on the border between Jordan and Syria. The base saw an increased US presence after American forces entered Syria in late 2015.

Citing the report, two US officials said as the enemy drone was flying in at a low altitude, a US drone was returning to Tower 22. As a result, there was no effort to shoot down the enemy drone that hit the outpost. One of the trailers where troops slept sustained the brunt of the strike, while surrounding trailers got limited damage from the blast and flying debris. 

(with inputs from agencies)

ALSO READ | 'Not seeking war against Iran', says US as it plans 'waves of attacks' after Jordan strike


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