After a barrage of ballistic missiles and rockets struck Al-Asad Airbase on January 20, U.S. troops stationed on the base are being medically evaluated for signs and symptoms that could indicate traumatic brain injuries (TBI), according to a press release by U.S. Central Command.
While U.S. troop injuries were reported, the number of troops being evaluated was not released. Currently, there are over 2,500 U.S. troops stationed in Iraq. The attack is one of a series on U.S. troops stationed in Iraq and Syria, with Iran-backed militia groups taking credit for the majority of the assaults. The Islamic Resistance in Iraq accepted responsibility for missiles launched from within the state on January 20.
According to Military.com, over 140 attacks have been conducted since October of 2023, with over 69 reported U.S. troop injuries. However, previous attacks have utilized Iranian-produced drones and rockets, while the attack conducted January 20 deployed missiles capable of greater damage.
Jon Finer, White House Deputy National Security Advisor, addressed the incident on ABC This Week, saying, “It was a very serious attack, using a capability of ballistic missiles that posed a genuine threat.”
“The United States has demonstrated in the past, when these rocket attacks have taken place in Syria, that we are going to respond, when we deem it necessary, to establish deterrence in these situations and to hold these groups accountable that continue to attack us,” Finer continued.
While Finer declined to issue a statement on whether retaliatory attacks lead by U.S. troops were being planned, he added, “Be assured, we are taking this very seriously.”
Finer also noted that U.S. forces had been successful in intercepting several of the ballistic missiles before impact; however, an unspecified number of missiles did contact the base.
According to the U.S. Department of Defense, TBI injuries have impacted more than 300,000 troops in training or combat missions. TBI injuries can be difficult to detect, as symptoms may not become apparent immediately after the injury occurs. Troops that are at risk for sustaining TBI injuries are routinely monitored for indications of injury following exposure. These symptoms can include headache, blurred vision, hearing loss, confusion, loss of coordination and language difficulties.