DOD acknowledges additional USA troops in Syria

Thursday, 07 Dec, 2017

The Defense Department on Wednesday acknowledged that the USA has roughly 2,000 troops on the ground in Syria, four times more than what officials had claimed just a month ago.

The Pentagon's new public numbers reflect an approximation of deployed troops as of Wednesday, Manning said.

A Pentagon official said on Tuesday the U.S. military plans on staying in Syria as long as necessary to ensure the Islamic State group does not return.

Manning also said there are about 5,200 troops in Iraq.

The Defense Department did not immediately clarify how those forces were accounted for or how USA troops would be positioned throughout the country during the stabilization effort, which will proceed as the Trump administration backs UN-led talks to decide the political future of Syria.

Manning announced the new official figure for American servicemembers in Syria on Wednesday, saying Defense Secretary Jim Mattis wants to increase transparency about where and how troops are deployed.

Pentagon officials in August, for example, acknowledged that there are about 11,000 US troops now serving in Afghanistan - well above the 8,400 forces previously reported.

The U.S. military, along with other nations in a US-led coalition, began bombing IS in late 2014 but until now has largely declined to address what its role in the tangled conflict might be after the jihadists are beaten. The department had previously omitted forces on temporary rotation from the count, along with a number of other groups.

Military officials have long said that despite several high-profile ISIS defeats, military operations against the terror group would continue for some time.

"They also do not appear to have a plan for how to bring a meaningful conclusion to the civil war that addresses the fundamental problems that led to the rise of ISIS". About 3 percent of Syria remained under Islamic State control.

Yet it's not clear exactly which Syrian partners the remaining American troops will be supporting to create "sustainable" and "ethnically diverse" local security forces. An example of this was the withdrawal of a Marine artillery unit from Syria last week. The Arab-dominated RISF that was stood up to stabilize Raqqa is 1,600 members strong and recently graduated 500 new members, coalition spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon said at an August briefing.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis told reporters Friday that the United States military mission in Syria was being reconfigured to better support diplomatic objectives, including the UN-led Geneva process aimed at bringing an end to the Syrian Civil War. The move is in line with Trump's promise to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a call made last month.

Coalition forces are still needed in the two countries, but they will focus now on the train, advise and assist mission. "That's local forces. That's people who make certain that [IS] doesn't come back", Mattis said.

Officially, the us military is number 503 in Syria and 5262 in Iraq.