Pentagon steers away from brain trauma diagnoses after Iranian strike

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Article Summary
Donald Trump downplayed the injuries of US troops stemming from an Iranian missile strike.

More US troops were treated for concussion symptoms after a fusillade of Iranian missiles struck Iraqi bases housing coalition forces earlier this month, a top commander for the US-led mission to defeat the Islamic State (IS) said today.

But Maj. Gen. Alexus Grynkewich, a deputy commander of the US-led mission to defeat IS in Iraq and Syria, insisted that the diagnosis of traumatic brain injury, or TBI, was likely premature after reports emerged last week that 11 American troops were evacuated to Kuwait and Germany.

“I know this question has gotten a lot of traction, [but] the diagnosis of TBI is probably an unfair characterization,” Grynkewich said. “The number of folks I would characterize it as being in the teens,” he said, but did not have a full count.

The Iranian barrage of ballistic missiles lasted “about an hour and a half,” Grynkewich said, but US troops at al-Asad and other Iraqi bases remained in bunkers for much longer, as commanders feared another assault with Katyusha rockets.

Ten rockets struck the base, US Central Command reported earlier this month, and Grynkewich said they came within “tens of meters” of striking American forces. There was a concern in the US-led command “from a pretty early stage” of potential concussion systems, Grynkewich added. The Pentagon has said that the troops who left the base are expected to return to duty.

The Air Force general’s comments came just hours after President Donald Trump appeared to downplay the injuries in a news conference in Davos, Switzerland, where he was attending the World Economic Forum.

"No, I heard that they had headaches, and a couple of other things, but I would say, and I can report, it's not very serious," Trump said. "I don't consider them very serious injuries relative to other injuries that I've seen."

Meanwhile, the United States has resumed operations to counter IS in Iraq after a US drone strike killed Qasem Soleimani an. 3, but not on the same scale, as the Iraqi government has threatened to eject 5,300 American troops. “We do have a lot of our advisory functions going on still,” Grynkewich said. “We’re looking to respond to the Iraqi demand signal, that’s really a government-to-government discussion.”

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Found in: Iran-US tensions

Jack Detsch is Al-Monitor’s Pentagon correspondent. Based in Washington, Detsch examines US-Middle East relations through the lens of the Defense Department. Detsch previously covered cybersecurity for Passcode, the Christian Science Monitor’s project on security and privacy in the Digital Age. Detsch also served as editorial assistant at The Diplomat Magazine and worked for NPR-affiliated stations in San Francisco. On Twitter: @JackDetsch_ALM, Email: jdetsch@al-monitor.com.

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