Four US soldiers have received medical attention for “minor injuries” and possible brain trauma following a projectile attack on a US-led coalition base in eastern Syria.
The Green Village base near Syria’s largest oilfield, called Al-Omar, in eastern Deir Ezzor province was targeted by two indirect fire munitions, likely rockets or mortars, shortly after 1 a.m. local time, the coalition said in a statement released Thursday evening.
On April 14, the US-led coalition announced that the incident was not caused by indirect fire at all, "but rather the deliberate placement of explosive charges by an unidentified individual(s) at an ammunition holding area and shower facility."
"The incident remains under investigation," the statement read.
Earlier on the day of the attack, a US Special Operations task force reported on its official Twitter account that two troops had been hurt in the incident.
The US-led Special Operations Joint Task Force-Levant (SOJTF-L) said one soldier was treated and released while another remained under evaluation for a possible traumatic brain injury. SOJTF’s initial tweet was later deleted and replaced with the coalition’s statement.
US forces thwarted a subsequent attack before dawn on Friday in the neighboring Anbar province of Iraq, the coalition said in a separate statement.
"At approximately 1:46 a.m., April 8, US air defense systems shot down an armed unmanned aerial system entering Al Asad Air Base," the coalition said, adding that no personnel were reported injured and there were no damages.
Why it Matters: Thursday's barrage is the first of its kind reported against US forces in Syria since January, when the coalition retaliated against Iran-backed militia for a previous rocket attack near the same base. No American personnel were reported hurt in that incident.
Last October, US Special Forces evacuated parts of the al-Tanf garrison on Syria’s southern border with Iraq and Jordan after receiving intelligence of an impending drone barrage by Iran-backed militias.
The isolated outpost sustained damage to a gym and sleeping quarters, but no coalition personnel were hurt in the attack.
US military officials later said the barrage was designed to kill. Then-top commander of US forces in the Middle East, Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie, credited quick thinking by lower-level commanders for averting casualties.
Thursday’s attack is the latest indication that Iran’s network of proxy militias will continue to harass US troops in the region, despite progress towards a return to the 2015 nuclear agreement between the two sides in Vienna.
The Pentagon’s top policy official for the Middle East, Dana Stroul, said on Tuesday that US forces in northeast Syria “experience on a very regular basis threats from Iran and Iran-backed proxies.”
There have been roughly 2,500 US troops in Iraq and some 900 in Syria in the wake of the multinational war effort against the Islamic State group. Stroul emphasized that US troops would remain in those countries and in the wider region, even as Washington focuses on competition with China.
What's Next: Gen. Michael Kurilla, the new top commander for US forces in the Middle East, said earlier this year that a return to a deal that includes unfreezing of Iranian funds abroad could increase risks to American troops in the region.
The Pentagon's top general, Mark Milley, told members of the Senate's Armed Services Committee that he does not believe that the Quds Force of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps should be removed from the US list of terrorist organizations – a possible concession from Washington amid final talks over a return to the 2015 nuclear accord.
The Biden administration's top Iran negotiator, Rob Malley, offered a public assurance last week that the IRGC and its Quds Force will remain under US sanctions regardless of terrorism designation.
Know More: Read the latest details emerging on negotiations with Iran in Vienna.
This story was updated on Apr. 8 to include details of the drone attack on Asad Air Base and again on Apr. 14 to include new details revealed by the US-led coalition's investigation.