Republican polling leader Donald Trump incorrectly said a U.S. soldier died in recent days, appearing to exaggerate the injuries from an attack in northern Iraq on Monday as he sought to criticize President Biden.
The attack left one U.S. service member in critical condition and two others injured, according to a statement released by U.S. military officials Monday night. The United States responded with retaliatory airstrikes against an Iran-backed armed group.
“Last night, a young soldier was killed, U.S., and the two were very, very badly hurt and nobody even talks about it,” Trump said, describing the assault two nights prior. “It’s not even believable.”
Both the U.S. military and National Security Council released statements on the attack Monday.
A Trump campaign spokesman did not immediately respond to requests to clarify his remarks.
The comments are part of a broader pattern of Trump frequently embellishing or otherwise misstating the number of U.S. military casualties as he seeks to make himself look more favorable compared with Biden. He routinely claims in campaign speeches that U.S. forces in Afghanistan went 18 months without any fatalities during his presidency. The Defense Casualty Analysis System’s Sentinel database has recorded U.S. military hostile deaths every year of the conflict since 2015.
U.S. Central Command attributed the attack to Kataib Hezbollah, an Iran-backed armed group that has claimed dozens of attacks with one-way attack drones and rockets on U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria since the war in Gaza began in October. The Biden administration has responded with airstrikes on a handful of occasions, including on Monday evening in Iraq.
“These strikes are intended to hold accountable those elements directly responsible for attacks on coalition forces in Iraq and Syria and degrade their ability to continue attacks,” said Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, chief of Central Command, in the statement Monday.
The continuing attacks have raised continued questions about whether the Biden administration is doing enough to deter the militias and the Houthis, another Iran-backed group in Yemen. The Houthis repeatedly have launched one-way attack drones and ballistic missiles at vessels in the Red Sea, damaging a few of them.
Administration officials have said they will respond to the attacks in a manner and at a time of their choosing, while also balancing a desire to prevent the war in Gaza from becoming a regional conflict.
In the interview, Trump falsely claimed that the attacks had gone completely unanswered.
“We don’t even do anything about it,” he said.