US troops suffer brain injuries in Iran attack
THIRTY-FOUR US troops have been diagnosed with brain injuries following an Iranian missile attack on their base in Iraq, the Pentagon said yesterday.
Seventeen remain under medical observation, while the rest have returned to their duties.
The January 8 strike saw Iran hit back following the US drone assassination of influential Iranian general Qassem Suleimani.
US President Donald Trump said he had been told that no troops had been injured in the attack.
But, following reports of soldiers with concussion and traumatic brain injuries, he said: “I heard that they had headaches. And a couple of other things. But, I would say, and I can report, it is not very serious.”
Jonathan Hoffman, the chief Pentagon spokesman, gave the first update yesterday since the attack and revealed that, out of the 34 with traumatic brain injuries, 18 were evacuated from Iraq to US medical facilities in Germany and Kuwait. But 16 stayed in Iraq, it was said.
Mr Hoffman said: “This is a snapshot in time. What he wanted to make sure is that you’re provided with the most accurate numbers.” He said US defence secretary Mark Esper had directed the Pentagon to review the process for tracking and reporting injuries.
Mr Hoffman added: “The goal is to be transparent, accurate and to provide the American people and our service members with the best information.”
No one was killed in the attack on the air base in Ain al-Asad, in western Iraq.
Michael Kaplen, chairman of the New York State Traumatic Brain Injury Services Coordinating Council, warned such injuries could be “life-altering”.
He branded Mr Trump’s statement as “ignorant”.
He said: “To equate traumatic brain injuries as just a headache is insulting and disrespectful to the thousands of military service members suffering from the signature wound of the Iraq/ Afghanistan conflict.
“Its physical, cognitive, emotional and behavioural consequences affect every aspect of an individual’s life.
“A brain injury is only ‘mild’ if it is someone else’s brain. There is nothing mild about a brain injury.”
Pentagon figures have revealed about 408,000 service members have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries since 2000.
Aftermath of the missile attack at the Ain al-Asad base