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U.S. soldiers clear rubble at al-Asad Base in the western Iraqi province of Anbar. Photo: Ayman Henna/ AFP via Getty Images

109 American troops suffered traumatic brain injuries as a result of Iran's Jan. 8 missile attack on U.S. bases in Iraq, the Defense Department said in a statement Monday.

Why it matters: The development, first reported by Reuters, is a significant jump from the 50 cases the Pentagon disclosed in late January — and more than triple the number disclosed in the immediate aftermath of the strike.

  • Traumatic brain injuries are not always detected immediately, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Pentagon spokesperson Thomas Campbell indicated in January that the numbers could increase.
  • Of the 109 troops diagnosed, 76 service members have returned to duty.

Yes, but: President Trump said that the injuries suffered by soldiers in the attack, which was a response to a U.S. strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani, weren't very serious — and brushed them off as "headaches."

  • That comment prompted the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the nation's largest veterans group, to ask Trump to apologize for minimizing the injuries.

What they're saying:

"The Defense Department is steadfast in its efforts to deliver programs and services intended to lead to the best possible outcomes for our service members. We are grateful to the efforts of our medical professionals who have worked diligently to ensure the appropriate level of care for our service members, which has enabled nearly 70 percent of those diagnosed to return to duty. We must continue to address physical and mental health together.”
— Pentagon press secretary Alyssa Farah

Go deeper

CPAC Republicans choose conservatism over constituents

Rep. Matt Gaetz. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images

CPAC proved such a draw, conservative Republicans chose the conference over their constituents.

Why it matters: More than a dozen House Republicans voted by proxy on the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill in Washington so they could speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference, known as CPAC. And Sen. Ted Cruz skipped an Air Force One flight as President Biden flew to Cruz's hometown of Houston to survey storm damage.

Border Democrat warns Biden about immigrant fallout

Henry Cuellar (right). Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call Inc. via Getty Images

A Democratic lawmaker representing a border district warned the Biden administration against easing up too much on unauthorized immigrants, citing their impact on his constituents, local hospitals and their potential to spread the coronavirus.

Why it matters: Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) told Axios he supports President Biden. But the moderate said he sees the downsides of efforts to placate pro-immigrant groups, an effort that threatens to blow up on the administration.

3 hours ago - World

Iran rejects nuclear talks with U.S., for now

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif at Iran/EU talks in 2015. Photo: Carlos Barria/POOL/AFP via Getty

A spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry said on Sunday that conditions are not ripe for informal nuclear talks between Iran, the U.S. and other world powers.

Why it matters: The Biden administration had proposed the talks as part of its efforts to negotiate a path back to the 2015 nuclear deal. The White House expressed disappointment with Iran's response, but said it remained willing to engage with Tehran.