The president said last month that rocket attacks on bases in northern Iraq launched by Iran following the targeted killing of Qasem Soleimani, had not hurt any of the US troops operating from there.
When it was revealed that more than 50 troops had in reality suffered what officials termed traumatic brain injuries, the president played down the severity of what they were dealing with.
“I heard they had headaches,” he told a news conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
“No, I don’t consider them very serious injuries, relative to other injuries that I’ve seen.”
On Monday, the Pentagon increased to 109 the number of personnel being treated after the rocket attacks, that were launched hours after the 62-year-old Iranian military leader was killed in a drone strike close to Iraq’s Baghdad airport.
Following those attacks, Iran accidentally shot down a civilian airliner, Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, killing all 176 people aboard, as it apparently anticipated retaliation from Washington for the attack on the bases in northern Iraq.
CNN said up to 200 people who were in the blast zone at the time of the attack on the bases in northern Iraq, have been screened for symptoms.
During a news conference at the Pentagon late last month, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen Mark Milley said the increasing number of reported cases stemmed from the fact the injuries, for the most part, fall into the category of “mild TBI” which takes time for symptoms to show.
“All of those people were screened and we have got a certain number and the number is growing, in this particular case TBI — that manifests, it takes some time to manifest itself, it’s not an immediate thing necessarily — some cases it is, some cases it’s not. So we continue to screen,” he said.
“Some of them have been evacuated to Europe, some have been evacuated back to the United States so there is a layered approach to this, we’ll continue to do that with our medical professionals.”
Pentagon officials have said there is no effort to minimise information on concussive injuries. But the disclosures following Tehran’s attack has renewed questions over the US military’s policy regarding how it internally reports suspected brain injuries and whether they are treated publicly with the same urgency as loss of limb or life.
Various health and medical groups for years have been trying to raise awareness about the seriousness of brain injuries, including concussions.
Since 2000, about 408,000 service members have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury, according to Pentagon data.
Additional reporting any Reuters
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