Lawmakers demand swift response from Biden after 3 US soldiers killed, 34 wounded

President Joe Biden
President Joe Biden | SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

Three U.S. service members were killed and 34 injured in a drone strike at a base in northeast Jordan, near the Syria border, U.S. Central Command confirmed, leading to severe criticism of the Biden administration’s “weakness” and demands for military retaliation as soldiers in the Middle East have sustained over 160 attacks since October.

The attack was executed by a one-way attack Unmanned Aircraft System, U.S. Central Command said in a statement Sunday, adding that, in line with Department of Defense policy, the identities of the servicemembers were being withheld until 24 hours after next of kin notification.

CENTCOM, which oversees forces in the Middle East, initially estimated the number of injured service members to be 25, but that number later rose to over 30. Late Sunday night, CENTCOM confirmed at least 34 soldiers had been injured, a defense official told CBS News.

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Reuters reported that the soldiers were being evaluated for possible traumatic brain injuries.

House Republican Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., expressed condolences to the families of the fallen soldiers, attributing the attack to Iranian-backed forces. In a statement, she criticized President Biden’s approach toward Tehran, accusing his administration of weakness and calling for a return to the Trump-era Maximum Pressure Campaign against Iran. “We can only achieve peace through strength,” she said.

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., echoed Stefanik’s sentiments, condemning Biden for emboldening Iran and leaving U.S. troops vulnerable. “The only answer to these attacks must be devastating military retaliation against Iran’s terrorist forces, both in Iran and across the Middle East. Anything less will confirm Joe Biden as a coward unworthy of being commander-in-chief,” he said in a statement.

The incident is the first American troop fatalities in hostile action since the Hamas-Israeli conflict in Gaza, The Wall Street Journal noted, reporting that the drone strike occurred at Tower 22, a small outpost near the Syria border, targeting troops’ living quarters.

Biden and the Secretary of Defense have indicated plans for retaliation.

Iran denied involvement, blaming U.S. military actions in the region. The attack’s implications are significant, with potential military and economic responses being debated in Washington. Options include striking Iranian paramilitary Quds Force personnel in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, or Iranian naval assets, former officials were quoted as saying.

The attack on Tower 22, a logistics hub for Al Tanf Garrison in southeastern Syria, represents a major escalation, likely aimed at driving U.S. forces out of Syria. Eight of the injured service members required evacuation, with the possibility of more injuries emerging.

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a pro-Iranian militia umbrella, claimed responsibility for attacks on three U.S. bases in Syria, including Al Tanf, according to WSJ.

The Biden administration has been balancing responses to Iran-backed militia attacks with avoiding broader regional conflict.

The WSJ Editorial also criticized Biden’s response to over 160 Iranian proxy attacks since October, suggesting the need for a stronger stance against Iran. It argued for direct action against Iranian military or commercial assets.

The Daily Wire reported bipartisan Senate support for direct military action against Iran. Senators from both parties called for accountability and decisive action, with some advocating for strikes inside Iran.

“I am calling on the Biden Administration to strike targets of significance inside Iran, not only as reprisal for the killing of our forces, but as deterrence against future aggression,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., was quoted as saying. “Hit Iran now. Hit them hard.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said: “We cannot afford to keep responding to this violent aggression with hesitation and half-measures. The entire world now watches for signs that the President is finally prepared to exercise American strength to compel Iran to change its behavior. Our enemies are emboldened. And they will remain so until the United States imposes serious, crippling costs — not only on front-line terrorist proxies, but on their Iranian sponsors who wear American blood as a badge of honor.”

Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., wrote on X: “Iran must be held accountable.”

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