WASHINGTON: According to new figures as released by the Pentagon, the number of US troops wounded by an Iranian missile strike in Iraq this month has risen to 64.
U.S. President Donald Trump had earlier said that the missiles fired at a base housing U.S. soldiers west of the nation on Jan 8 did not hurt any Americans. Democrats later accused Trump of trying to downplay the wounds.
Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Campbell, a Pentagon spokesperson, said in a statement on Thursday that the American troops have been diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injury (TBI).
On Wednesday the Pentagon said 50 soldiers were injured in the Ain al-Asad base strike in Iran. The latest total is a 14-fold increase on those numbers.
Iran fired at Iraqi bases housing US troops in retaliation for an American drone attack in Baghdad that killed Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani, raising fears of war.
Of those diagnosed with TBI, 39 soldiers returned to service, the Pentagon said, while the others were either sent back to the U.S., are waiting to be sent back, or are still being assessed.
Most of the 1,500 American soldiers at the base of Ain al-Asad were in bunkers at the time of the attacks, after they were given advance warning by superiors.
The attention towards brain injuries sustained this month by American troops in Iraq is an example of America’s episodic exposure to this mysterious war wound, which has afflicted hundreds of thousands over the past two decades but is still not fully understood.
By comparison to physical wounds, such as burns or loss of limbs, traumatic brain injuries are not noticeable and may take time to diagnose. Physically and psychologically, the full impact may not be apparent for some time, as studies have shown linkages between TBI and mental health problems.
The words used by President Donald Trump can not be ignored as mere headaches, since he said that the injuries suffered by the troops in Iraq were not particularly severe.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the Pentagon is actively investigating ways to prevent on – the-battlefield brain injuries and improve diagnosis and treatment. In some cases, it is likely that signs of TBI from Jan 8’s Iranian missile attack on an air base for Iraq won’t become evident for a year or two.
National commander William Schmitz for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, warned last week that the Trump administration if the TBI issue is not taken seriously.
“TBI is known to cause depression, memory loss, severe headaches, dizziness and fatigue, sometimes with long-term effects,” he said, and calling on Trump to apologise for his fallacious remarks.
Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr., a Democrat from New Jersey and member of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force, was disappointed in Trump for demonstrating a clear lack of understanding of the devastating effects of brain injury.
Earlier this week, when it revealed that the number of TBI cases in Iraq had risen to 50, the Pentagon said more would come to the fore later.
No one was killed in the missile attack, which was an Iranian attempt to avenge the killing in an American drone strike in Baghdad of Qassem Soleimani, its most powerful general and commander of its paramilitary Quds unit.