Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Thursday that President Donald Trump is “very concerned” about the troops who have suffered traumatic brain injuries following Iran’s missile strike on Al-Asad air base in Iraq. His comments come after the president himself said last week that the injuries were “not very serious.” “He is very concerned about the health and welfare of all of our service members, particularly those who were involved in the operations in Iraq and he understands the nature of these injuries,” Esper told reporters Thursday, according to ABC News. While Trump was in Davos, Switzerland, last week for the World Economic Forum, he claimed the troops had been suffering from “headaches” and downplayed the injuries. “No, I do not consider that to be bad injuries,” he said. When Esper was asked about Trump’s previous comments, he said he spoke to the president and his rhetoric shifted.
This comes after the Defense Department announced earlier this week that 50 service members had traumatic brain injuries in the aftermath of the attack. The majority of them were diagnosed with “mild” traumatic brain injuries and 31 of them have since returned to duty in Iraq.