When Iran launched its missiles against Iraqi military bases earlier this month, in its attempt to save face after the Soleimani killing, the White House ensured that no casualties nor injuries occurred during the attack. Whether or not this was due to an early warning system inside the bases or, as reports had indicated, a communicated warning from the Iranians to the Iraqi, remains unknown. However, while the first point regarding casualties remains accurate, the Trump administration has since been recanting its statements on the injury reports.
At first, the statement had been changed from no injuries to about two handfuls of minor injuries American service members suffered during the missile attack, eleven altogether. The most recent comments by the administration, however, now speak of thirty-four US soldiers that sustained injuries that night. About half of these servicemen are back to their units by now, while the rest is still being treated to the date. Eight soldiers were flown back to the United States after initial treatment in Germany, and nine others continue to receive treatment in a U.S. military hospital in Germany.
Most importantly, however, the story changed from no injuries at all to 34 soldiers who suffered traumatic brain injuries, according to statements by Pentagon spokesmen Jonathan Hoffman. Hoffman’s explanation for the administration’s complete turnaround on what impact the missiles attacks caused sounded rather implausible. Apparently, the symptoms after traumatic brain injuries suffered by the servicemen were occurring delayed, including the headaches, which was common with this type of injuries.
The US military now admitted that there were 50 injuries, another Pentagon spokesman, Thomas Campbell, said Tuesday, when he admitted that now 16 more soldiers had been diagnosed with the traumatic brain injury. Of the 50 injured soldiers, 31 are now back in Iraq, it said on Tuesday. Eighteen were flown to a US military hospital in Germany. A soldier had been brought to Kuwait but is now back in Iraq, the Pentagon confirmed. Campbell also stated that Defence Secretary Esper had not immediately been aware of the injuries in the days after the attack.
Traumatic brain trauma has become a significant concern of the military in recent years as knowledge of the background and impact increases. They can lead to impaired thinking, memory, vision, hearing, and other functions. The severity and duration of the injury can vary widely.
In the immediate aftermath of the attack on the Al-Asad base on the night of January 8, President Trump initially said that not a single US soldier was harmed. The previous Wednesday, during his appearance at the World Economic Forum in Davos, he stated that he believed the explosion-induced concussion symptoms were simply “headaches” while also stating that the current cases were not as severe as injuries that involved “limb loss.”
With the missile attack, Tehran responded to the targeted killing of Iranian general Kassem Soleimani in a US drone attack in Iraq. The killing of the general had exacerbated tensions between the United States and Iran and raised concerns about a potential war between the two parties to the conflict.
Currently, the situation in Bagdad remains volatile. The US embassy has been repeatedly targeted by missiles during the past week, while on Friday, tens of thousands of Iraqis protested in the streets of Baghdad against the presence of foreign troops in the country. The Iraqi parliament has urged all foreign troops – including those from the US – to leave.