3 US Troop Deaths in Jordan Shrouded in Secrecy
A cascade of secrets, about the base, the mission, and the failure of anti-drone measures surround the deaths of three U.S. Army reservists in a drone attack Sunday on “Tower 22” in northeastern Jordan.
There are three lingering questions:
What is Tower 22 and why is the first time we’re hearing about it when American troops die there?
Why is the 718th Engineer Company even deployed to Jordan?
Why weren’t the 350 soldiers and airmen assigned to Tower 22 protected from the attack using widely available counter-drone technology?
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Tower 22: CENTCOM, the Pentagon’s regional command for the Middle East calls Tower 22 a “logistics support base” that is part of “Jordanian Defense Network...conducting a number of key support functions, including support to the coalition for the lasting defeat of ISIS.”
Reuters ridiculously reports that the base “holds a strategically important” location, using the word “strategic,” which the Pentagon loves to use (and the media repeats) to show gravitas. But if the base is strategically important, then why have we never heard of it? And as opposed to what, a not strategic location?
CENTCOM also calls Tower 22 a “base” but it does not appear in any Pentagon budget document or construction plan. Undoubtedly if I called out Tower 22 before Sunday and called it a secret base, the Defense Department would have howled that it’s not a base, that it’s just a facility, or it is a tactical outpost, or a cooperative location, or a contingency deployment, or a deployed location, or even part of the Jordanian defense network, which is what it says about this desert mirage, which is to say that even in their forced explanations, they are obscuring more than explaining.
718th Engineer Company: The three Army soldiers that were killed, Specialist Breonna Alexsondria Moffett, 23, of Savannah; Sergeant William Jerome Rivers, 46, of Carrollton; and Specialist Kennedy Ladon Sanders, 24, of Waycross were all construction specialists sent to Tower 22 to expand it and other secret bases in the desert, under the 718th Engineer Company.
The company is assigned to the Army Reserve’s 926th Engineer Battalion of the 926th Engineer Brigade headquartered at Fort Moore (Fort Benning) in Southwest Georgia. The 718th, the Army says, is an “Army Early Response Force” responsible for road and perimeter building. A look at the satellite photographs of the base taken in the past few years show how the engineers have improved the facility, adding a short runway for helicopters and drones, and making the base more permanent. But why now, why since the “defeat” of ISIS is the Biden administration upgrading this (and other) bases throughout the region?
CENTCOM says that the mission of Tower 22 is “including” support for the ISIS war, but it is really focused on the so-called Iran-backed militias, which are not anti-ISIS. In fact, the 718th is assigned to Task Force Spartan, which is a multi-country entity supporting Operation Spartan Shield, which is the anti-Iran ground contingency force that is otherwise described as a “cooperative” training partner. Headquartered at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Spartan Shield has soldiers deployed from Jordan and Iraq in the north to the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Oman in the south.
If you’ve never heard of Spartan Shield, you are not alone. It is one of a half dozen “operations” taking place right now in the Middle East. Those include Operation Enduring Freedom, Inherent Resolve, Poseidon Archer, Prosperity Guardian, NATO Mission Iraq, Sea Guardian, Safe Haven, whatever the operation supporting Israel is called, and various other secret special operations. Think that Spartan Shield is static? Just in the past six month, Spartan Shield has hosted war games with its various “partners,” including Arabian Gulf Firing Drill 2023G, Eagle Resolve, Iron Union, Al Adheed 23, Live Fire Exercise Al Tahreer, Emergency Deployment Response Exercise, High Mobility Artillery Rocket System Rapid Infiltration exercise, Crisis Response Task Force Training, and Combined Arms Live Fire Exercise, quite a spectacle to Tehran. But don’t ever call them “U.S.-backed” Jordan or “U.S.-backed” Kuwait or “U.S.-backed” Israel, for the Pentagon wordsmiths would complain.
Countering the Drone: The Pentagon was quick to leak that the attack on Tower 22 came as a result of “confusion” as a U.S. drone was operating around the base and defenders mistook the attack drone for the American one. Some in the news media report this as fact, even though no investigation has been concluded, and the excuse just begs the question: Why build a base in the middle of nowhere and fill it with 350 people and not defend it, especially after there have been so many attacks on facilities since October? Wouldn’t that be a priority?
The Army and the other military services are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on “counter unmanned aerial systems” to face this very new capability, one that has been demonstrated in both the Hamas war and Ukraine. Wouldn’t protecting this outpost be a priority?
The Facebook and Instagram pages of Task Force Spartan are filled with pictures of counter drone hardware in the desert. The Task Force even conducted Red Sands 23.2 in Saudi Arabia late last year, a live fire counter-UAS [milspeak for counter-drone] exercise at the Shamal-2 Range. Counter-UAS is a bonanza for the defense industry and the gizmos are being demonstrated to “partners” to find buyers.
But for protecting soldiers sleeping in their primitive container housing? Not quite the same priority.
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