An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) struck a maintenance facility near Hasakah in northeast Syria this afternoon, killing a U.S. contractor and injuring five other service members.
The incident highlights the growing threat of small, unmanned aerial systems (UAS), as these vehicles provide adversaries with a tool to conduct surveillance and potentially launch strikes against U.S. forces and partners worldwide. Unmanned aircraft can be used for reconnaissance, communications relay, target acquisition, suicide attack, or delivery of an explosive payload through direct impact or airburst explosions. These attacks are difficult to detect in advance due to their small size and low acoustic signature. Furthermore, drones can stay aloft for extended periods without detection by standard airspace control measures like radar or ground-based sensors typically employed at larger coalition bases.
Coalition forces have been campaigning against the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria and are increasingly concerned about Iranian-backed militia groups operating there. While US forces carried out the strikes, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said they were “in coordination with our partners” from partner nations of the coalition. He did not provide any other details on potential involvement. The strike was authorized by President Joe Biden and came amid rising tensions between Washington and Tehran over American sanctions aimed at choking off Iran’s economy and its nuclear program. The attack Thursday was one of several recent incidents that have raised fears of escalating conflict between regional foes – including Israel – with Iran serving as a focal point for their rivalries.
The United States will continue to take appropriate actions in response to any attack against U.S. personnel and interests, including targeting facilities associated with Iran-backed militants. The President has also made it clear that he is ready to end this cycle of violence through a diplomatic process that addresses the full range of issues driving Iranian malign activity in the region. We remain committed to de-escalating tensions and upholding our security commitments while protecting America’s interests in Iraq and worldwide.”
“Our response will be deliberate, proportionate, and in accordance with international law. We are committed to protecting our personnel and facilities abroad, while also ensuring that we do not embolden our adversaries or put more innocent lives at risk,” President Biden continued. “We urge all nations to work together to reduce regional tensions and ensure peaceful resolution of differences.”
The U.S. military continues to take all necessary precautions to protect our forces and partners operating in Iraq and the region from threats posed by ISIS, Iranian-backed militants, and other terror groups. The Department of Defense remains committed to ensuring the safety of coalition personnel serving in Iraq and stands ready to respond with appropriate force against any threat that may arise.