11 US Troops Injured in Attack Where No US Troops Were Injured

Claims by the President and Defense Department about the Iranian response to the Soleimani raid were untrue.

President Trump and Pentagon spokesmen assured us that last week’s Iranian strike retaliating for the assassination of Quds force commander Qasem Soleimani harmed no American or partner forces. That was a lie.

Jake Tapper, Ryan Browne and Barbara Starr reporting for CNN:

Several US service members were injured during last week’s Iranian missile attack on Al-Asad airbase in Iraq despite the Pentagon initially saying that no casualties had taken place.

“While no U.S. service members were killed in the Jan. 8 Iranian attack on Al Asad Air base, several were treated for concussion symptoms from the blast and are still being assessed,” the US-led military coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria said in a statement Thursday.

“Out of an abundance of caution, service members were transported from Al Asad Air Base, Iraq to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany for follow-on screening. When deemed fit for duty, the service members are expected to return to Iraq following screening,” the statement added.

A US military official told CNN that 11 service members had been injured in the attack, which was launched in retaliation for the US airstrikes that had killed Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani the previous week. Defense One was first to report on the injured service members.

Following the attack the Pentagon said that no casualties had resulted from the 16 missiles fired by Iran. The US military defines a casualty as either an injury or fatality involving personnel.

Asked about the apparent discrepancy, a Defense official told CNN, “That was the commander’s assessment at the time. Symptoms emerged days after the fact, and they were treated out of an abundance of caution.”

After this story published, Capt. Bill Urban — the spokesperson for US Central Command, which oversees troops in the Middle East — said the military had learned after the attack that 11 individuals were injured — eight were transported to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and three were sent to Camp Arifjan in Kuwait for “follow-on screening.”

—“US troops were injured in Iran missile attack despite Pentagon initially saying there were no casualties”

Defense News Executive Editor Kevin Baron adds,

Nearly one dozen American troops were wounded in Iran’s Jan. 8 missile attack on Iraq’s al-Asad air base. This week, they were medically evacuated to U.S. military hospitals in Kuwait and Landstuhl, Germany, to be treated for traumatic brain injury and to undergo further evaluation, several U.S. defense and military officials have confirmed to Defense One.

Senior military and Trump administration officials had said on Jan. 8 that 11 Iranian missiles had caused “no casualties, no friendly casualties, whether they are U.S., coalition, contractor, et cetera.”

[…]

According to a fourth senior U.S. defense official, “About a week after the attack some service members were still experiencing some symptoms of concussion.” The official expected more information would be released soon. “We only got wind of this in the last 24 hours.”

—“Eleven US Troops Were Injured in Jan. 8 Iran Missile Strike”

Color me skeptical that commanders didn’t realize numerous people suffered traumatic brain injury until more than a week after the attack.

FILED UNDER: Iran, Military Affairs, National Security
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Jax says:

    I wondered if they would tell the truth when it happened…the night of, initial reports from some ME news agencies I follow on Twitter indicated as many as 80 casualties, then the plane went down and I never could find anything more about it. After that, the “official” position seemed to have solidified to “No casualties”.

    4
  2. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    I wonder if they lied to Trump…because they didn’t know what stupid-ass thing he would do if he knew Americans were injured?

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  3. gVOR08 says:

    OK, now we learn there were eleven Americans injured. When do we find out the truth about Iraqi or other allied casualties?

    I’ve seen satellite photos online, but only of four impact sites. Those four were square hits on buildings surrounded by large open areas. It would appear the Iranians picked specific targets and hit at least four of them accurately.

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  4. DrDaveT says:

    The “abundance of caution” language bothers me. It really sounds like there is still an official predisposition to believe that concussions aren’t real injuries, or that post-concussion syndrome is a form of malingering.

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  5. Kathy says:

    @DrDaveT:

    Oh, you know no one uses more than 10% of their brain. What are the odds any important part was damaged? 😛

    Seriously, I quite agree. Imagine: “The patients had broken bones, visible hemorrhages, and low blood pressure. Out of an abundance of caution, they were transported to a hospital.”

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  6. inhumans99 says:

    @gVOR08:

    It is blindingly obvious this was a proof of concept display of power to show they are not pushovers, between this and our failure to take out the other bad dude in Yemen it is clear we needed to think twice before escalating our fight with Iran. I know our President is a child but even children sometimes listen to reason and I think that is what happened here. Some folks with brains in their heads probably sat the President down and explained that at this point in time we needed to calm things down in the region and not just because a shooting war would be bad for his re-election chances. I still stand by my belief that if the GOP nukes Roe Vs. Wade/or gets into a shooting war with Iran it would be a mega disaster for the GOP.

    This is why packing the courts comes with risks, because the GOP should be careful that the courts do not give them what they wish for (the they being the small but loud minority that influences the GOP, but the GOP could end up quickly discovering that this small group of extremists actually does not speak for the majority of the country). Anyway, this post is at a point where it belongs in an Open Forum due to my thread drift. Sorry about that.

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  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @DrDaveT: I have to admit that my first reaction was to minimize it, a hangover from the days when “men were men” and just toughed it out, like I did on at least 3 occasions, at least one of which I definitely should have gone to the hospital for treatment. My 2nd reaction was that it’s nice to see our military leaders are more enlightened than my vestigial Neanderthal self. My 3rd reaction is that I hope my 2nd reaction is right.

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  8. Mikey says:

    Eleven were injured? No. Eleven were transported to hospitals outside of Iraq. We’re not being told how many were actually injured.

    And if you end up at Landstuhl, you’re in a bad way. You don’t go there for “caution” or “screening,” you go there because if you don’t you’ll fucking die. And you might anyway.

    I guess it’s to be expected at this point that any department in the Trump administration will emulate him and just baldly lie to America.

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  9. KM says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    Toughing it out is not only outdated thinking but poor military strategy and tactics. You need a military that in fighting shape and trust they are not hiding potentially debilitating injuries. A solider who lies about their health to be “manly” can put their unit at risk should things go south. It’s practical to have any and all potential injuries evaluated solely to determine fighting fitness. I mean, it’s not like the medical personnel have anything better to do then take care of wounded after a damn airstrike – it’s their actual job. Nobody wants to hear someone had a seizure while out of patrol from a hidden brain bleed.

    I’d question any military leader at any level of command who didn’t think “hmmm, you were in a building that got hit by a missile. That might affect your combat readiness” or “hmmm, weren’t you in that building that got hit? Your head hurts? Get your ass over to the docs now” because they’re not proving adequacy at assessing troop readiness. Anyone who thinks it being soft is taking unnecessary chances with the mission and people under their command for no reason.

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  10. Mike in Arlington says:

    I’ve never served in the military, much less served in a war zone, so my knowledge of what actually happens in situations like this is zero.

    My question is this: what is the likelihood that this was caused by miscommunication (or a lack of communication) that typically happens in the chaos of an attack like this? And by the time the actual facts of the matter get reported up the chain, the initial story prevails and the facts have a lot of catching up to do?

    Is it also possible that the concussion injuries are somewhat latent or misdiagnosed at first and only later it becomes obvious how serious they really were, causing a delay in reporting?

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  11. John A Peabody says:

    Nice to see that everyone here is an expert on combat medical care, the state of medical readiness at forward bases in Iraq, and the ability to read minds up and down the chain of command from an NCO in the field to the CinC. What special people, to comment here! We are blessed.

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  12. David S. says:

    @John A Peabody: I’m so glad you include yourself in that comment.

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  13. KM says:

    @John A Peabody :
    Considering the CiC straight up *LIED* on camera about this issue, you might want to settle down. Somebody else typed that lie for him to read and several military officials have repeated it. So yes, the chain of command ain’t doing so great on this right now and it’s not just at the tippy-top. Keep in mind, 11 were bad enough to ship out – that wasn’t the total number of injured, just those in serious shape. You don’t get flown out of country for an owie a base hospital can slap a band-aid on.

    We’re freaking geniuses compared to an Admiration that not only thought they could lie about this but that nobody would notice. That nobody would notice an influx of patients or ask where they came from or what happened. Family members certainly wouldn’t notice a loved one in the hospital and connect the fact they were at an air-base that Iran attacked. But hey, if it makes you feel better to snark about, go right ahead. It reminds of my little cousins who whine “And you think you’re sooooooo perfect” when they get caught doing something wrong. Don’t need to be perfect or special but I am doing better then these lyin’ asses, so thank you for noticing.

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  14. Bill says:

    The Nixon administration make a mistake concerning casualties in Laos.

    2
  15. KM says:

    Apologies if I seem a little salty about this topic but it’s hitting home for me. I come from a family with a strong military tradition. We don’t have any currently serving but that’s going to change in a few short years.

    This could have been them.

    We could have gotten notification they’d been flown out to Germany for treatment while watching Trump deny they were hurt on TV. I could be watching this moron tell me, no my family isn’t in the hospital with possible TBI, it’s fake news!!! I could be sitting with an worried aunt or uncle while FOX is bleating in the background about how it’s all fine, nobody got hurt and even if they did, it was only 11 come what’s the big deal. Can you imagine what the families of these 11 people (and possibly more) are feeling right now? He’s essentially denying their existence and what happened to them. I’d be livid – hell, I’m livid right now. Military families tend to be conservative so think of what it must feel like to have the President you may have supported and even went full MAGA for deny your loved one’s injury and still keep spinning that lie.

    Trump started all of this for no damn good reason and already there’s hundreds of dead innocents we know of. How many more causalities are we going to find out about because of this man’s stupid decisions? How many are we going to find out about after they’ve lied to us?

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  16. Mikey says:

    @John A Peabody: I did 20 years in the military, 13 of those in a combat specialty. I’m not reading any minds, just applying my experience.

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  17. Gustopher says:

    “Trump lied, people had traumatic brain injury” doesn’t have the same ring as “Bush lied, people died.”

    I don’t expect honesty from this administration. I am pleased that they went with a de-escalating dishonesty this time.

    2
  18. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @KM: Like I said…

  19. dazedandconfused says:

    @Mikey:
    Mikey,

    I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt on this. The new concussion protocols are quite different than what they were just a little while ago, and it is plausible to me that the initial reports from the Pentagon to the POTUS could have been “nobody injured”. A day later guys started reporting possible concussions, and nowadays that’s OK. Landstuhl? I would not be in the least bit surprised to find out that EVERYBODY who has a possible brain injury is being immediately transferred to top-drawer care, which could be unavailable in Iraq right now. We don’t have many people there anymore.

    Also, call me cynical but there are always a few jokers bucking for a medal, and a Purple Heart carries status in the real world and some extra benes from the VA.

    That said the information here is we didn’t clear out in advance. There has been some reporting that the Iraqis were warned to stay away, and we also made sure to get clear. Nope. We were close. They would have laughed anyone who wasn’t somewhere nearby out of the room.

    3
  20. pepper says:

    Is it too late for an American response? Khameini warns today of future attacks. Trump will have to put up or look at diminished numbers in his base; may hurt his impeachment trial, as well.

  21. Michael Reynolds says:

    Got my laptop back from the shop. Did I miss anything?

    2
  22. Mikey says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt on this.

    I’d give any other President the benefit of the doubt. But after the last three godawful years of lying, exaggerating, misdirecting, and just plain bullshitting, I’m not inclined to give Trump anything.

    At the very least, we’re not being told the true number of wounded. And even if all your points–which are very good–are accurate, the way things actually played out adds one more line to a very long list of Trump administration incompetence.

    3
  23. mattbernius says:

    @Mikey:

    And if you end up at Landstuhl, you’re in a bad way. You don’t go there for “caution” or “screening,” you go there because if you don’t you’ll fucking die. And you might anyway.

    I can’t speak to Mikey’s military service, but he’s correct about this point (I’m not sure about the “fucking die” thing, but Landstuhl is definitely for *serious* cases):

    TOM BOWMAN: Now, Landstuhl, Mary Louise, is the most advanced military hospital in Europe. And I reached out to retired Brigadier General Steve Xenakis about all this. He’s a psychiatrist and concussion expert. And I asked him, you know, what does it mean that they went to Landstuhl? And he said it’s clearly very serious. They likely showed certain symptoms of possible brain injuries.

    https://www.npr.org/2020/01/17/797410206/11-u-s-troops-were-injured-in-iran-rocket-attacks-on-iraq-bases

    Also, something I *didn’t know, from the same reporting:

    And, you know, as we know, a casualty is defined as anyone who is killed or wounded by hostile fire. The administration, the Pentagon said no casualties.

    I had always understood casualties to be only fatalities.

    2
  24. @John A Peabody:

    Nice to see that everyone here is an expert on combat medical care, the state of medical readiness at forward bases in Iraq, and the ability to read minds up and down the chain of command from an NCO in the field to the CinC. What special people, to comment here! We are blessed.

    Ok, let’s set aside any discussion of whether the airlift to Germany means anything. What about the simple fact that we were told no one was injured and now there is clear evidence that was untrue?

    2
  25. Nickel Front says:

    So 11 soldiers were injured, and we’re all more upset at Trump then at the Iranians for attacking and injuring US soldiers.

    Am I reading this right?

    Should Trump have just blamed a YouTube video for all this instead? Because I’m trying to figure out what level of lying is worthy of Outrage here.

    I mean, we have this right here:

    That was the commander’s assessment at the time. Symptoms emerged days after the fact, and they were treated out of an abundance of caution.

    Which seems perfectly reasonable.

  26. @Nickel Front:

    Am I reading this right?

    You appear not to be. I see nothing here that states we should be more upset at Trump than the Iranians for the attack.

    We are upset that POTUS lies to us.

    3
  27. @Nickel Front: It is a straightforward issue. Why are you okay with being lied to?

    3
  28. Moosebreath says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    “It is a straightforward issue. Why are you okay with being lied to?”

    Trump supporters are OK with it because it upsets Trump’s opponents.

    3
  29. mattbernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Why are you okay with being lied to?

    To that point, the issue that some of us are taking issue with is two fold:

    1. The military only acknowledged the injuries *after* the Defense One story that broke the news.
    2. At a rally on this past Tuesday night, January 14th, the President stated that no one was injured in the attack to huge applause.

    It’s possible that the medical transports happened *after* Tuesday, but as far as I can tell, those details haven’t been made public. But if they happened before, then it’s another example of this President either (1) being completely out of the loop, or (2) actively lying to his base.

    Accepting the hypothetical, which one do you prefer?

    2
  30. Mikey says:

    @Nickel Front:

    Am I reading this right?

    You’re not within ten astronomical units of reading it right.

    What you did do quite well was build a strawman.

    As a veteran myself, I was fortunate that the combat I saw did not result in my being wounded. Friends of mine were not so fortunate. Of course, I am not “more upset at Trump then at the Iranians for attacking and injuring US soldiers,” and the suggestion I am is execrable nonsense.

    What I am upset at, and what you would be too if you weren’t such a brain-dead cultist, is yet another instance of the Trump administration lying to the American people. Just as most people (apparently not including you) can actually walk and chew bubblegum simultaneously, it is quite possible–nay, probable–those of us who detest Trump’s constant prevarications are also deeply upset any of our servicemembers have been wounded in this attack, and concerned for their full recovery.

    And don’t forget the whole shitty mess is TRUMP’S DAMN FAULT. He killed Soleimani in probably the stupidest way possible, which spawned a whole series of events culminating in the attack on the American airbase and the downing of the Ukrainian airliner. And just today we learned–in Trump’s own words–that the “imminent attack” justification for killing Soleimani was yet another blatant lie.

    So no, you’re not reading it right. Not even close.

    4
  31. Mikey says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: He’s a Trumpist. They live for being lied to.

    2
  32. dazedandconfused says:

    @Mikey:

    Mikey,

    No argument here. Trump screwed himself with a thousand petty lies. He is thereby unfit for the office and whatever other troubles that brings are well-earned.

  33. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @dazedandconfused: Just to clarify one point. Your second sentence should read “continues to be” rather than “is thereby” because he was unfit for office independent of those events.

  34. mattbernius says:

    @Mikey:

    As a veteran myself

    Unfortunately, your not the right type of veteran as you are not “Ride or die Trump.”

  35. dazedandconfused says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    You are correct, I screwed that up. I hereby amend “He is thereby” to “Yet another reason he is”.

  36. Nickel Front says:

    So an obvious situation where injuries were discovered later is somehow worse than an administration lying about an attack on our embassy where 4 Americans were killed.

    It’s like being rear ended and saying you’re fine, but then your neck starts hurting a few days later.

    Then along comes James Joyner demanding to know why I’m lying now.

  37. @Nickel Front:

    It’s like being rear ended and saying you’re fine, but then your neck starts hurting a few days later.

    Actually, no its not.