In Depth

Iran missile strike: US military contradicts Trump’s ‘no casualties’ claim

Officials say 11 troops were wounded in attacks on air bases in Iraq

The Pentagon has reported that 11 US troops were injured in Iranian missile strikes on two air bases in Iraq last week, contradicting prior claims that no one was wounded.

The Wall Street Journal says the wounded personnel are “being screened for traumatic brain injuries” following the 8 January attacks on coalition bases in Erbil, in northern Iraq, and Al-Asad, in the west. According to military-focused news site Defense One, the troops were airlifted to military hospitals in Kuwait and Germany this week.

The reports were confirmed by a spokesperson for the US-led coalition fighting Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, who said that “out of an abundance of caution”, service members from the Al-Asad base had been taken to Landstuhl Regional Medical Centre in Germany and Camp Arifjan in Kuwait for “follow-on screening”. 

Captain Bill Urban, a spokesperson for the Florida-based US Central Command, added that “as a standard procedure, all personnel in the vicinity of a blast are screened for traumatic brain injury, and if deemed appropriate, are transported to a higher level of care”.

If given the all-clear, the 11 troops will return to Iraq to continue their service.

What had Trump said about the attacks?

The casualty reports directly contradict the US president’s previous claims that no one at either airbase had been hurt in the missile attacks, launched in retaliation for the Trump-sanctioned assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani.

In a speech the day after the strikes, he said: “The American people should be extremely grateful and happy no Americans were harmed in last night’s attack by the Iranian regime. We suffered no casualties, all of our soldiers are safe, and only minimal damage was sustained at our military bases.”

His claims were backed up by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, who told a press conference that there had been “no casualties, no friendly casualties, whether they are US, coalition, contractor”.

However, a Department of Defense official this week told CNN that Trump and Esper’s statements were based on “the commander’s  assessment at the time”, and that the wounded troops’ “symptoms emerged days after the fact”.

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