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U.S. reports drone strikes on Tanf base in Syria, no casualties

Soldiers file in for a briefing on a part of the base that houses U.S. Special Forces at the Tanf garrison compound in Syria on June 21. (Karoun Demirjian/The Washington Post)

BEIRUT — U.S. forces reported an attack by drone aircraft on one of its outposts in a remote corner of Syria but said there had been no casualties or damage.

The statement said one of the unmanned aircraft was shot down while a second impacted in the compound without causing any damage to the base, which houses U.S. troops and their Syrian allies.

“Such attacks put the lives of innocent Syrian civilians at risk,” Maj. Gen. John Brennan, commander of the U.S. forces in Syria fighting the Islamic State, said in a statement. “Coalition personnel retain the right to self-defense, and we will take appropriate measures to protect our forces.”

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Past attacks on the Tanf outpost have been attributed to Iran, including last October, and in June, Russian aircraft struck a section of the base inhabited by the Syrian opposition fighters — after giving U.S. forces a half-hour’s notice.

The isolated desert outpost is in southeast Syria, near the Jordanian and Iraqi borders, and is part of the U.S. battle against remnants of the Islamic State in the country. The base also hosts an estimated 300 troops of its partners, the Maghaweir al-Thowra (Commandos of the Revolution, also known as the MaT).

The MaT train and carry out operations with the U.S. coalition troops and conduct daily operations, according to the Defense Department.

The strategically located garrison sits near Syria’s Tanf border crossing with Iraq, at the crossroad of a main highway between Baghdad and Damascus — one of the main supply routes by land for Iran to smuggle arms into Syria and to its Hezbollah allies.

Over the years, Tanf has largely been ignored by the Syrian army, loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, as well as its allied Iranian and Russian troops, despite a brief flare-up last year and the June strike. More frequent are the rocket attacks against U.S. bases in the northeast, where U.S.-allied Kurdish troops control the area.

In a tweet, the MaT said multiple drone aircraft attacked the base with the aim to kill soldiers, but the attack was thwarted. “Together, we stand ready to defend the 55 kilometer zone and fight for a free #Syria,” the group said.

The statement was accompanied by two photos, one showing a small pile of rubble in the midst of a dry patch of land and another of two nondescript structures with an unidentified piece of machinery on the ground.