TEHRAN (Basirat): The number of American forces that have sustained traumatic brain injury in Iran's missile attack at the US base in Iraq last month has risen to 110, the Pentagon confirmed on Friday.
One more US service member has been diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury following Iran’s January 8 retaliatory operation in Iraq over Washington's assassination of Tehran's top anti-terror commander strike in Baghdad, the Pentagon announced, while President Donald Trump and his defense officials had initially claimed no service members were injured or killed in the incident.
“From [Ein] Al-Assad to Germany and the United States, the military’s medical professionals continue to work diligently to ensure the appropriate level of care for our service members, which has enabled 70 percent of those diagnosed to return to duty,” the Pentagon said in a news release, marking the seventh time in more than one month the military has increased its injury assessment.
“The department is committed to delivering programs and services intended to lead to the best possible outcomes for our service members,” the statement added.
In late January, Defense Secretary Mark Esper stressed that the Pentagon took those types of injuries “very seriously”.
Several Pentagon officials had told CNN that the number of diagnosed cases is likely to continue to change, as approximately 200 people who were in the blast zone at the time of the attack have been screened for symptoms.
Earlier, a leading Kuwaiti newspaper had also disclosed that 16 US military men with fatal injuries sustained during Iran's retaliatory operation have been taken to a hospital in camp Arifjan in Ahmed al-Jaber airbase in Kuwait.
The Arabic-language Al-Qabas paper quoted informed sources as saying that the 16 US militaries, included some whose bodies had been severely burnt and some others who had sustained shrapnel wounds, have been transferred to a US military hospital in Kuwait under strict security measures.
It added that the wounded military men have gone under surgical operations and are still kept at the ICU section of the hospital.
According to the paper, several other US forces who had sustained mild injuries in Iran's missile strike are being treated in Iraq.
The US president and the Pentagon initially claimed no service members were killed or wounded, and they signaled that Washington was not looking for additional armed conflict with Tehran. Trump stated soon after the missile attack that “no Americans were harmed", and the United States suffered "no casualties", noting that "all of our soldiers are safe, and only minimal damage was sustained at our military bases".
Later, it emerged that “several” were being treated for concussion symptoms.
Trump had consistently tried to minimize the injuries, stating that he had “heard [the injured soldiers] had headaches” but insisting “it is not very serious…relative to other injuries I have seen”.
The US administration also was criticized for playing down the severity of injuries. The Veterans of Foreign Wars later stated in a statement that it “expects an apology from the president to our service men and women for his misguided remarks”.
Ein Al-Assad, which houses US troops, is one of the largest and oldest military bases and located in Al-Anbar province in Western Iraq. It found itself under fire from volleys of ballistic missiles launched from Iran after a US drone strike near Baghdad on January 3 assassinated Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Qods Force Commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani who played a major role in beating the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, ISIS or Daesh) terror group in both Syria and Iraq.
The terror group has intensified its attacks in Iraq and Syria following the United States’ assassination of Iran’s top anti-terror commander, residents and monitors say. The Associated Press (AP) announced in an analysis that Daesh “clearly gained at least temporary breathing room” after tensions between Iran and the US escalated in the aftermath of the martyrdom of General Soleimani.
His assassination has inflamed tensions between Washington and Tehran, and drew a harsh rebuke from Baghdad, prompting the Iraqi Parliament to pass a resolution ordering American forces to leave the country.
Briefing media on operational objective of missile attacks on US bases, IRGC Aerospace Commander Brigadier General Ali Hajizadeh stated that Iran was not after killing anyone although "tens of US troops have likely been killed and wounded and were transfered to Israel and Jordan on 9 sorties of C-130 flights".
He noted that had Iran intended to kill the American forces, it could have planned high casualty operations to kill 500 US military men in the first step and 4,000 to 5,000 others in the second and third phases within 48 hours.
Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei has called the military operation "only a slap across the face" of the United States, stating that "military moves like this are not enough. The Americans' corruption-stirring presence should come to an end".
Tehran reiterates that its strategic objective is expelling the US troops from the region, naming it the true vengeance for the terror attack on its most popular commander.