Nearly Two Dozen Troops Suffered Brain Injuries in Iran-backed Syria Strikes, Pentagon Now Says

Pentagon spokesman U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder
Pentagon spokesman U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder speaks during a media briefing at the Pentagon, Friday, March 24, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The Pentagon now says 23 troops were diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries from attacks by Iran-backed militants in Syria in March that killed an American contractor.

The military originally said last month that six service members had TBI following the attacks waged by an Iran-made drone and militant rockets, but acknowledged medical assessments were ongoing and more cases were possible.

The cases were diagnosed among troops at two locations in northeast Syria that were attacked. One additional service member and a contractor were also injured on the base in Hasakah and a facility known as Mission Support Site Conoco.

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"We make every effort to ensure we are providing the media and the public with timely, accurate information, so I apologize for any inconvenience," Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the top Pentagon spokesman, said in a released statement on Monday. "Our thoughts and prayers remain with those affected by this tragic loss of life and injury."

Ryder said on Monday that the Pentagon approached Central Command for updated figures on the injuries in the March attacks and were then provided the new numbers.

Eleven troops suffered TBI in the Iran-made drone strike on the base housing U.S. personnel in Hasakah, Syria, on March 23. Another 12 troops suffered TBI during an attack on Mission Support Site Conoco on March 24, according to the new figures.

There was also a follow-up, Iran-backed attack on March 24 on the Green Village outpost, though the newly updated Pentagon figures say there were no injuries in that attack.

At the time of the attacks, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered a series of retaliatory air strikes that killed eight militants, raising concerns over potential escalation with Iran. Its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has backed strikes by militant groups on about 900 U.S. troops, and an unknown number of contractors, who are deployed in Syria.

Those deployed forces are focused on tracking down and eliminating members of the Islamic State, nearly a decade after the U.S. launched an air war against the terrorist group in Iraq and Syria.

On Monday, U.S. Central Command announced that a raid killed an ISIS senior leader and operational planner. The raid was launched following intelligence that the group planned to kidnap officials abroad.

But the few U.S. personnel who have remained in Syria and Iraq have at times been caught in Iran-sponsored violence as Tehran seeks to spread its influence in the region.

The U.S. initially denied any troops were injured in January 2020 when Iran struck Al Asad air base in Iraq with 15 ballistic missiles. Former President Donald Trump said some service members had reported "headaches" that were minor injuries.

Eventually, the Pentagon confirmed that 109 troops had been diagnosed with TBI.

The troops injured in the March attacks on Syria bases required medical treatment. The contractor was the only death reported by the Pentagon.

"One service member was medically evacuated to Landstuhl [Regional Medical Center in Germany] to receive treatment and two U.S. service members and the U.S. contractor are receiving medical treatment in Iraq," Ryder said on March 30.

-- Travis Tritten can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Travis_Tritten.

Related: At Least 6 Troops Diagnosed with Brain Injuries After Deadly Iran-Backed Strikes in Syria

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