Tensions flared again in the Middle East, after the Trump administration on 3 January assassinated top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad, prompting Iran to fire missiles towards two Iraqi bases hosting US troops; in Erbil and near the Iraqi capital on 8 January. The Pentagon initially denied any casualties from the attack.
Captain Bill Urban, spokesman for US Central Command (CENTCOM) confirmed earlier reports that 11 US servicemen were injured as a result of the attack that took place on 8 January. The servicemen were treated for concussion symptoms – 8 have been transported to Landstuhl Regional Medical Centre in Germany, and three more to Camp Arifjan in Kuwait.
Earlier in the day, Defense One reported, citing US military command spokesman Col. Myles Caggins, that 11 American soldiers were airlifted to Kuwait and Germany after the attacks for treatment of various traumatic head injuries.
“Out of an abundance of caution, some service members were transported from Al Asad Air Base, Iraq to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, others were sent to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, for follow-on screening […] When deemed fit for duty, the service members are expected to return to Iraq following screening. The health and welfare of our personnel is a top priority and we will not discuss any individual’s medical status”, Caggins said, cited by Defense One.
An unnamed official said, according to Defense One, that some of the hospitalized soldiers may have suffered concussions during the Iranian strikes.
“About a week after the attack some service members were still experiencing some symptoms of concussion […] We only got wind of this in the last 24 hours”, the official said.
On 5 January, the Iraqi parliament approved a resolution that demanded the immediate and complete withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq, in protest over the US drone attack that killed Soleimani. Iraqi Lawmakers voted that the assassination had violated the nation’s sovereignty, and the country’s government filed a complaint to the UN Security Council. Iranians retaliated by attacking two military bases hosting American troops in Iraq with ballistic missiles.
American officials have repeatedly ruled out a complete pullback from Iraq. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indicated that he perfers slowly scaling down US forces in the country, now estimated at around 5,000-6,000 “to the extent we can use less American treasure and put fewer American lives at risk we ought to do that”.
Pompeo suggested that he took some dozens of phone calls with various Iraqi senior officials who, privately, continue to welcome the American military presence in their country.