Tower 22 is a US base in Jordan, located across the border from a US base in Al Tanf, Syria, which was attacked on January 28th, killing three American soldiers and injuring 47 more. Eight American soldiers were evacuated after a bombing in Iraq, with some suffering physical and traumatic brain injuries.
The Biden Administration is misleading the public about the attack to conceal Iran’s involvement and Iraq’s involvement in the killings. Admiral John Kirby, the National Security Council’s strategic communications coordinator, clarified that the US is not seeking a war with Iran.
The US Central Command (CENTCOM) reported that the base was hit by a one-way drone, but no photographs have been released or confirmation of what the drone actually hit. The situation is politically complicated because Jordan is an American ally, and the United States has made a massive policy blunder believing it can still hang onto its bases in Iraq and Syria despite their missions being compromised. This leaves American troops vulnerable to attack and destruction.
The US has been appeasing Iran, the main enemy of all US allies in the Middle East, including Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf States. Tower 22, a US logistics base supporting al Tanf, was attacked by an Iranian proxy, likely the previously sanctioned Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH), the Party of God Brigades, which is aligned with the elite Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. KH is a Shia militia that receives money and policy support from Iraq’s government and has participated in combat operations against ISIS in Iraq and anti-government forces in Syria.
Tower 22 is a logistic supply hub with around 350 personnel and supports al Tanf, which has around 1,200 Americans and houses a Syrian-origin fighting force called the Revolutionary Commando Army, trained and directed by the US. Both use containerized housing units (CHU) for dining halls and meeting rooms. CHUs are paper-thin structures with barely enough room for a bed, a small desk, and a locker or closet. They typically have steel frames and walls made of plywood, tin, rock wall sandwich, or other low-cost material.
If a shrapnel-filled bomb exploded near a CHU, it could do a great deal of damage, as there is nothing to stop the fragments. Even individual bullets can fly right through these structures. The Army could provide more secure housing, especially at vulnerable base areas, and Congress should investigate why the Army chose to expose US troops to such an obvious risk.
CENTCOM celebrated its ability to defend al Tanf bases in the past, but satellite photos of one strike at al Tanf show significant destruction. The best guess is the Avenger Air Defense System and Stinger MANPADS, both used by the Army. Avenger, a 35-year-old air system, has never shot down a drone in combat anywhere. It is mounted on a HMMWV Jeep-like vehicle and fires Stinger air defense missiles.
Avenger, a mobile and stand-alone radar system, can be connected to external sources and is currently present in Syria and Iraq. Stinger is a man-carried and operated air defense weapon that has to see the threat, just like Avenger. It can have a dual seeker-sensor in the missile’s nose that is sensitive to both infrared and ultraviolet light. Both Avenger and Stinger are “fire and forget systems” and have no reports of Stingers shooting down drones in combat.
A Pentagon report suggests that Tower 22 had its own drone in play, either exploiting the US drone’s flight path or being shielded by it. Both Stinger and Avenger have IFF systems to differentiate between threats and friendly aircraft. Mode 5 class IFF transponders can identify a friendly if it sends the correct encrypted code, requiring ground operators to destroy it.
The US Air Force (USAF) has been criticized for its lack of IFF transponders on its military drones, which are crucial in modern combat scenarios. This raises questions about the potential use of cheap commercial drones, such as Task Force 99, for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions. Task Force 99, based at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, has approximately 98 drones with ranges between 12.5 and 900 miles, including its own 3D printed drone called Kestrel. These drones are typically small plastic quadcopters, some of which are battery-powered and include group 1 and group 2 unmanned aerial systems (UAS) platforms.
Task Force 99 is tasked with finding unique drone solutions to support US operations in the Middle East, but due to its focus on cheap commercial products, the drones it uses are not equipped with IFF. The presence of a Task Force 99 drone may indicate that air defenses were shut down during US Army drone operations.
The damage at Tower 22 could have been caused by a large munition, as multiple drones hit al Tanf causing significant damage. It is reasonable to assume that the strike on Tower 22 was well-planned and intended to cause maximum casualties, possibly due to previous surveys by hostile drones, satellite pictures, or spies at the base. More information is needed to determine the possible presence of a Task Force 99 drone during US Army drone operations.
The most likely loitering munition used at Tower 22 was a version of the Iranian Ababil 3, manufactured by the Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industrial Company (HESA). This single engine drone, also known as Qasef-1 and Qasef-2, is used by the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in Iraq. At least four terrorist organizations under the PMF have used these drones in past attacks. Two other Iranian drones could have been used: Mohajer-6, a large drone with four precision-guided munitions, and Shahed 136, a loitering munition with a warhead between 40 and 50 kg.
The attack on Tower 22 occurred “in the early morning,” meaning the weapon was likely launched at night. The Biden administration has been adamant that the attack was carried out by Iranian proxies, without naming the group or individuals responsible.
The attack was carried out by Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH), an Iranian-sponsored anti-American Shiite militia operating in Iraq and Syria. KH maintains strong ties with Iran and pledges spiritual allegiance to Khamenei. The Biden administration has avoided blaming Iran for directing its proxies. KH is directly funded by the Iraqi government, which covers operations and weapons acquisitions.
Abu Fadak, also known as Al-Khal (The Maternal Uncle), is the chief of staff of the PMF and led the Iraqi militia attack on the US Embassy in Baghdad in 2019. The US administration is working to maintain its relationship with Iraq and protect Iran, but this compromises American forces in Iraq, Syria, and Jordan. US bases are poorly defended and not strongly fortified, making them easy targets for attacks.
Additionally, the US is allowing Iraq to fund and support hostile operations aimed at US installations and bases in the region, potentially allowing US security information to be handed off to the Popular Mobilization Forces, a military arm of the Iraqi government associated with Iran. This policy cannot work, as the enemy is part of the government we are supporting.
The US response to attacks has been less than optimal, exposing American weakness and indecisiveness. The Biden administration’s failure to act on hundreds of Iranian-planned and ordered provocations will continue to deteriorate the situation and result in more American lives being lost.