US forces had shot down a small drone that approached their garrison in the southeastern Syrian area of al-Tanf, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) revealed on December 16.
Capt. Bill Urban, a spokesman for the CENTCOM, told NBC News that two drones were tracked entering the airspace around al-Tanf garrison on the evening of December 14.
“As one of the UAS continued its course deeper into the al-Tanf Deconfliction Zone, it was assessed as demonstrating hostile intent and was shot down,” the spokesman said, adding that the second drone turned and left the area.
According to the spokesman, it is not known if either drone carried any explosives. This suggests that US forces have not recovered the wreckage of the downed drone, yet.
Some 200 US are usually deployed at al-Tanf garrison that was established in 2016. The US maintains a 55 kilometers no-fly, no-drive zone around the garrison.
On October 20, al-Tanf came under attack. The garrison was targeted with five suicide drones and indirect fire. The attack resulted in some serious material damage. However, there were no casualties. The US withdrew all of its troops from the garrison before the attack after receiving an early warning. Iran was unofficially blamed for the attack.
US officials told NBC News that Iran or Iranian-backed forces are suspected to be behind both the October 20 attack and the December 14 drone incident.
The US-led coalition and its proxies held two live-fire exercises in al-Tanf in November. The exercises were likely an attempt to deter Iran and its allies in Syria and Iraq. This attempt has clearly failed.
While the US claims that its forces are present in al-Tanf to counter ISIS, the real purpose of the garrison is to block a highway that links the Syrian capital, Damascus, with Iraqi capital, Baghdad. Washington wants to keep Iran’s allies in the two countries away from the strategic highway.