Nineteen American service members stationed in Iraq and Syria have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury after rocket and drone attacks from Iran-backed militants last week, the Pentagon confirmed Thursday.
Fifteen troops at Al Tanf garrison in Syria and four at Al Asad air base in Iraq were diagnosed with the injury, said Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder. Two additional service members at Al Tanf sustained other minor injuries, Ryder said. POLITICO first reported the news earlier on Thursday.
The comments come a day after the Defense Department announced that 21 service members had received minor injuries during the attacks on Oct. 17 and 18.
Iran-backed groups have launched a number of additional attacks on U.S. positions in Iraq and Syria over the past week, but none has resulted in additional injuries to service members.
Altogether, American troops have come under attack by a mix of one-way drones and rockets 12 times in Syria and four times in Iraq since Oct. 17, Ryder said Thursday.
The reports of brain injuries highlight the risk to hundreds of U.S. troops at bases across the Middle East — and that threat is expected to grow as Israel prepares for its ground invasion of Gaza. On Tuesday, another Iranian proxy issued a statement threatening attacks on U.S. military bases in the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has rushed additional ships, aircraft and air defenses to the region to help protect American troops, including most recently multiple Patriot battalions and a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system.
This is not the first time American troops have sustained brain injuries at the hands of Iranian proxies in the Middle East. This spring, the Pentagon said at least 23 service members had been diagnosed with brain injuries from March attacks in Syria that killed an American contractor.
In 2020, the Trump administration came under fire for initially denying that troops had been injured after Iran struck al Asad air base, Iraq, with more than a dozen ballistic missiles in January. At the time, then-President Donald Trump said service members had reported “headaches.”
Later, the Pentagon acknowledged that 109 troops had actually been diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury.
Brain injuries are notoriously hard to track, and is often reported days after the incident. Symptoms can range from headaches and dizziness, to blurred vision, confusion and ringing in the ears, among many others.