Tom Vanden Brook
WASHINGTON – More than 100 U.S. troops have been diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injury from last month’s Iranian missile attack on a base in Iraq, the Pentagon announced Monday.
The number of troops wounded by the explosions at the Ain al-Assad base has risen dramatically since the Jan. 8 ballistic missile attacks. Initial reports, cited by President Donald Trump, indicated there were no casualties from the missile strike, which was launched in response to the U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
A week later, the Pentagon acknowledged 11 troops were being treated for traumatic brain injury. By Jan. 31, the number had risen to 64. As of Monday, 109 troops have been diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injury, and 76 of them have returned to duty.
“The Defense Department is steadfast in its efforts to deliver programs and services intended to lead to the best possible outcomes for our service members,” said Alyssa Farah, Pentagon press secretary.
The number could change if more troops come forward with symptoms, according to a Pentagon statement.
Reuters was first to report that more than 100 troops had been diagnosed with brain injuries.
Ain al-Assad is located about 100 miles west of Baghdad and housed about 1,500 U.S. and coalition troops at the time of the attack.
The symptoms of traumatic brain injury are not always readily evident. Headaches, dizziness, memory loss and fatigue may manifest themselves days or weeks after the event. Explosions generate changes in air pressure that can damage the brain, and the closer troops are to a blast, the more vulnerable they are.
Trump was criticized by veterans’ organizations for downplaying the significance of traumatic brain injury.
U.S. commanders knew about the Iranian missile launches in advance and had scattered troops to bunkers. The initial assessment of the attack, in which 11 ballistic missiles struck the base, showed damage to some structures and equipment but no life-threatening casualties.
The lack of U.S. fatalities and the apparent absence of casualties calmed tensions between the U.S. and Iran.