Pentagon Announces Troop Levels in Iraq, Syria

Elias Hubbard
December 7, 2017

As recently as last month the Pentagon said there were about 500 US troops in Syria.

Manning also said Wednesday that the United States has about 5,200 troops in Iraq, essentially the same force size as the Pentagon acknowledged under Obama. The 1,500 or so previously undisclosed troops in Syria include traditional combat forces like infantry, artillery and forward air controllers trained to call in airstrikes, as well as support personnel, said Eric Pahon, a Pentagon spokesman.

There are about 2,000 US troops deployed in Syria, the Pentagon said Wednesday - a number that is four times more than any official figure that USA officials have previously acknowledged, and yet still lower than at the height of operations in Syria. The new number does not mean additional troops have been deployed to the volatile country, but it does show the large inaccuracy of previous figures. He said he was doing so as part of a new effort by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to be transparent about how many troops are deployed in harm's way.

Manning also said on Wednesday there are about 5,200 US troops in Iraq - a number that remains unchanged from past reports - but said that it is also shrinking. Some 3,000 IS fighters remain distributed between Iraq and Syria, according to coalition estimates.

"The Syrian regime and Russian federation's actions have thus far demonstrated that countering [IS] and other violent extremist groups like [Jabhat Fatah al-Sham] and al-Qaeda is not their foremost priority", Manning said.

"It still excludes certain sensitive missions and certain personnel", said spokesman Eric Pahon, after being asked if the count includes US troops that "enable" local partner forces.

The US defense Department said that soon will provide information about the exact number of American troops stationed overseas, reports Voice of America.

But U.S. military operations in Syria are expected to continue.

The U.S. troops are also focused on training local police forces, ensuring humanitarian aid can flow into areas where it is needed and ensuring local governance where U.S. -backed forces liberated land from ISIS, he said.

Despite recent reports suggesting that USA support for the SDF would be curtailed, Pahon said the United States would work with the SDF and other local forces on the ground to transition to a "sustainable, self-sufficient, ethnically diverse local security forces", while also promoting "inclusive governance" that is representative of local communities liberated from ISIS rule.

He reiterated USA support for the United Nations -led talks in Geneva peace talks. "Nor do they appear to be serious about the withdrawal of Iranian-backed militias", said Manning.

A solution to the Syrian civil war is the best way to ensure groups like ISIS do not take advantage of the chaos and confusion to impose their ideology, the colonel said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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