February 11, 2020
The U.S. military has for the fifth time raised the number of U.S. service members who suffered traumatic brain injuries after an Iranian missile attack on an air base in Iraq last month.
The Defense Department said on February 10 that 109 U.S. service members had been diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injury, adding that 76 of them had returned to duty.
The Pentagon had previously reported that 64 had been injured.
President Donald Trump initially said that no Americans were harmed in the January 8 attack on Ain al-Asad Air Base, which came amid tensions over the U.S. killing of an Iranian top general in Baghdad.
When asked about possible traumatic brain injuries, Trump said: “I don’t consider them very serious injuries relative to other injuries I have seen.”
However, the number of reported cases has continued to grow in the weeks after the attack.
The Pentagon has said the rising number results from the mild form of injury which means symptoms take time to manifest.
Tehran said the missile attack on Ain al-Asad and another air base hosting U.S. troops in Iraq was revenge for the killing of Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s elite Quds Force, in a U.S. drone strike near Baghdad’s airport in early January.
William Schmitz, national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, has said the group “expects an apology from the president to our service men and women for his misguided remarks” in downplaying the seriousness of the injuries.