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More U.S. troops leave Iraq for medical treatment after Iranian missile attack, Pentagon says

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 2020-01-21 Dan Lamothe

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More U.S. service members have been transported out of Iraq for medical treatment and evaluations following Iran’s missile attack on military facilities there, the Pentagon said Tuesday, nearly two weeks after President Trump and defense officials initially said no one was hurt.

The Pentagon said Friday that 11 service members were transported out of Iraq for treatment and assessments. U.S. military officials declined to say on Tuesday how many more are receiving care but said “additional” troops had been sent to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

The officials left open the possibility that the number could increase in coming days.

“The health and safety of all service members is the greatest concern for all Department leadership and we greatly appreciate the care that these members have received and continue to receive at the hands of our medical professionals," U.S. Central Command said in a statement. “As medical treatment and evaluations in theater continue, additional service members have been identified as having potential injuries.”

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The statement continued: "These service members -- out of an abundance of caution -- have been transported to Landstuhl, Germany for further evaluations and necessary treatment on an outpatient basis. Given the nature of injuries already noted, it is possible additional injuries may be identified in the future.”

The statement did not address the condition of the first 11 service members transported out of Iraq, and U.S. defense officials said Tuesday evening that they did not have more information about them to share.

a group of people on a rocky beach: U.S. soldiers stand at a spot hit by Iranian missiles at Ain al-Asad air base in Iraq days after the Jan. 8 attack.  (Qassim Abdul-Zahra/AP) © Qassim Abdul-Zahra/AP U.S. soldiers stand at a spot hit by Iranian missiles at Ain al-Asad air base in Iraq days after the Jan. 8 attack. (Qassim Abdul-Zahra/AP) The injuries surfaced after Iranian forces launched 11 missiles on Jan. 8 at Ain al-Asad air base west of Baghdad and one into the northern city of Irbil in retaliation for the U.S. killing of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, who U.S. officials say was connected to the deaths of hundreds of U.S. troops over the last 20 years. More than 1,000 U.S. service members were at Al Asad at the time of the attack, U.S. defense officials have said.

The barrage left deep craters and charred wreckage in several locations on the Iraqi base. U.S. officials initially said no service members were killed or wounded, and signaled that the United States was not looking for additional armed conflict with Iran.

“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,” Trump said soon after the attack.

But concussion-like symptoms -- which sometimes do not manifest themselves immediately -- have prompted an increasing amount of medical attention.

On Jan. 13, military officials at Al Asad told The Washington Post that “dozens” of service members were suffering from concussion-like symptoms. Jonathan Hoffman, the chief Pentagon spokesman, said Friday that the first three left on a regularly scheduled flight to Camp Arifjan in Kuwait on Jan. 10.

Eight more American service members left on another regularly scheduled flight to Landstuhl on Jan. 15. Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper was notified of the 11 patients that day, and defense officials disclosed the treatment that day, Hoffman said. Defense One first reported the evacuations that night.

Hoffman said Friday that Trump’s remarks to the nation the morning after the attack were “accurate," and reflected "truthful information that he received.” Initial reporting from U.S. commanders in Iraq to the Pentagon said no Americans had suffered loss of life, limb or eyesight, following Defense Department reporting requirements, he said.

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