Mix-Up Preceded Deadly Drone Strike in Jordan, U.S. Officials Say

Air defenses failed to stop an attack on a U.S. military outpost in Jordan on Sunday that killed three American soldiers at least in part because the hostile drone approached its target at the same time an American drone was returning to the base, two U.S. officials said on Monday.

The enemy drone was mistaken for an American surveillance drone returning to the remote resupply base, and air defenses were not immediately engaged, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss preliminary findings of a major cause of the episode. Two other drones that attacked other locations nearby in southeast Syria were shot down, they added.

The Wall Street Journal earlier reported the drone mix-up, now at the heart of an investigation by the military’s Central Command into the deadly attack that has drawn vows of retaliation from President Biden, raised doubts about American military defenses in the Middle East, and begged anew questions about the administration’s efforts to deter attacks by Iran-backed militias against merchant vessels, warships and military bases in the region.

The attack on Sunday killed three U.S. Army Reserve soldiers, the first known American military fatalities from hostile fire in the turmoil spilling over from Israel’s war with Hamas. The Pentagon on Monday raised the injured toll to at least 40, with a warning that the list would probably grow as additional troops came forward with symptoms of brain trauma from the blast.

Biden administration officials blamed a drone launched by an Iran-backed militia from Iraq, and suspicions at the Pentagon immediately fell on Kataib Hezbollah, an Iran-affiliated group in Iraq. “It has the footprints of Kataib Hezbollah,” Sabrina Singh, a Pentagon spokeswoman, told reporters, noting that intelligence analysts were still assessing the strike.

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