Sunday’s deadly drone attack on a small US base in Jordan known as Tower 22 highlighted a little-known mission in a barren desert area just a mile south of the country’s border with Syria.
The strike, which the United States blamed on Iranian-backed militants, raised public questions about why American forces were stationed in such a remote location.
“This specific mission… has been in effect since 2014, when the campaign against ISIS began in earnest,” said retired Gen. Robert Abrams, the former commander of US Forces Korea and an ABC News contributor, referring to US efforts to kill ISIS. . Dismantling ISIS.
“It started out as a small stamp with probably 30 people providing support to U.S. Special Operations Forces and our partners who are operating and beginning operations against ISIS in Syria,” Abrams added.
Tower 22, in northeastern Jordan, “has since grown to be able to support expanded missions and conduct operations over the past 10 years,” Abrams said of the site that has now become a major logistics hub for the 900 U.S. troops who have since remained in Syria. . A mission to prevent the return of ISIS fighters.
Jordan does not usually publicly acknowledge the presence of US military personnel at bases within its borders, but following the attack on Sunday, officials there said US forces were stationed to assist Jordan with border security.
US Central Command also revealed new details about the unknown base.
“There are approximately 350 U.S. Army and Air Force personnel deployed to the base, performing a number of key support functions, including supporting the coalition to permanently defeat ISIS,” the US Central Command statement said.
Nearby satellite images show US military helicopters and buildings at Tower 22, not far from Jordan bordering Syria and Iraq, and mini-satellite images show the base is only about 15 miles from the US Al-Tanf military base in Iraq. Syria enjoys a strategic location on the main highway leading to the Syrian capital, Damascus.
About 100 American soldiers are stationed in the Al-Tanf area, hundreds of miles away from other American forces in Syria, in the northeastern and eastern parts of the country.
While the forces in Al-Tanf also have a counter-terrorism mission, their presence on the highway leading to Damascus is also aimed at combating the smuggling of Iranian weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Tower 22’s proximity to Al-Tanf means it is able to provide logistical and air support to the smaller and more isolated base in Syria. Its growth over the years means it now includes more than three times the number of US forces present at al-Tanf – and is about a third the size of the entire US contingent in Syria.
According to the Pentagon, the one-way attack drone that struck the base early Sunday ended up targeting some of the containers used as living quarters on the base.
The drone may have been able to penetrate the defenses at Tower 22 because American personnel mistook it for a plane returning from a surveillance mission, two US officials said on Monday.
A Pentagon spokesman said Monday that the drone strike was the first time the base had been targeted by more than 165 drone and missile attacks on US forces in Iraq and Syria since mid-October, which the US says were carried out by Iran. It supported armed groups opposed to the Israeli campaign against Hamas in Gaza.
Iran denied involvement in Sunday’s attack, with a spokesman saying, in part, that “war is not a solution.”
ABC News’ Anne Flaherty, Somaya Malekian and Nadine Shubailat contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared on abcnews.go.com