The number of U.S. military personnel injured in Iran’s Jan. 8 missile strike on U.S. positions in Iraq has risen to 64.
The Pentagon reported an additional 14 confirmed mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) cases on Thursday, the second increase this week since they reported 50 confirmed injuries on Tuesday night, according to CNN.
The latest injury assessment comes a full 22 days after the Iranian attack. Of the 64 injured, 39 had reportedly returned to duty.
Pentagon officials had previously indicated that around 200 U.S. troops were in blast area when the attack occurred and were subsequently screened for injuries. President Donald Trump, in an address on the morning after the attack, remarked that “No Americans were harmed.”
Trump appeared to point to the minimal initial damage reports for his decision not to further retaliate against Iran, thus allowing tensions to subside.
While no casualties were initially reported, many U.S. service members began to experience symptoms of TBI in the days that followed. The number of reported injuries first rose to 11, then to 34 last week.
As the number of injuries grew, Trump said he believed the injuries were “not serious” and described the injuries as headaches.
During a Thursday Pentagon press briefing, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said the reason cases are late manifesting is because the injuries fall into the category of “mild TBI” cases, which can take time for symptoms to appear.
When asked if Trump was wrong to initially claim no U.S. casualties and to later minimize their severity, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who was also at the press briefing, spoke in support of the early Pentagon assessments.
“The chairman and I spent most of the night going over casualties and understanding what happened on the ground with Gen. McKenzie and others. I think the reporting was accurate,” Esper said. “At that time, as reported, there were no casualties, as the chairman just defined it.”
Esper, upon answering a question about Trump downplaying the injuries, said, “I’ve had the chance to speak with the president. He is very concerned about the health and welfare of all of our service members, particularly those who were involved in the operations in Iraq, and he understands the nature of these injuries.”
Milley also provided some clarity as to why Trump called the injuries “not serious.” Milley said the Pentagon has referred to injuries in the past as falling into three categories: Very Serious Injured (VSI), Serious Injured (SI) and Not Serious Injured (NSI).
“In this case, the reporting to date indicates mild TBI, which would be in the category of not serious injured. That doesn’t mean they’re not injured,” Milley said. “. . . But in the categories that we categorize wounded in action, these individuals are in the NSI category at this time. That’s not to minimize or dismiss or anything, that’s just to say that that’s how we categorize casualties.”