World U.S. Says 2,000 Troops Are in Syria, a Fourfold Increase

06:51  07 december  2017
06:51  07 december  2017 Source:   The New York Times

Pentagon: Four times as many US troops in Syria than previously acknowledged

  Pentagon: Four times as many US troops in Syria than previously acknowledged The Defense Department on Wednesday acknowledged that the U.S. has roughly 2,000 troops on the ground in Syria, four times more than what officials had claimed just a month ago. The number does not represent an increase in troop levels in the country, a Pentagon spokesman said, but instead reflects a more accurate count. The U.S. military had as recently as November said the official troop count in Syria was 503.

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Two U . S . officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the Pentagon could, as early as Monday, publicly announce that there are slightly more than 2 , 000 U . S . troops in Syria . That is not an increase in troop numbers, just a more accurate count, as the numbers often fluctuate.

James Mattis wearing a suit and tie: Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in October in Washington. He ordered that the Pentagon disclose new troop totals in Syria. © Al Drago for The New York Times Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in October in Washington. He ordered that the Pentagon disclose new troop totals in Syria.

WASHINGTON — About 2,000 American troops are in Syria fighting the Islamic State, a Pentagon spokesman said on Wednesday, almost four times the total previously disclosed as the Trump administration changes how troop numbers are publicly counted.

The new total, ordered disclosed by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, counts service members on temporary duty of six months or less who were not included in Obama-era totals. 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.

More than 400 U.S. troops leaving Syria: coalition

  More than 400 U.S. troops leaving Syria: coalition More than 400 U.S. Marines and their artillery are leaving Syria after helping to capture the city of Raqqa from Islamic State, the U.S.-led coalition fighting the militant group said on Thursday. Last month, U.S.-backed militias declared victory in Raqqa, Islamic State’s former headquarters in Syria, after months of fighting with the help of the U.S.-led coalition."With the city liberated and ISIS on the run, the unit has been ordered home. Its replacements have been called off," the coalition said in a statement, using an acronym for Islamic State.

A senior U . S . military commander said Monday that 4, 000 American troops are on the ground in Syria , a figure far greater than the 503 personnel the Trump administration says are deployed there.

The U . S . Troop Presence in Syria Is at Its Highest Ever. And there needs to be an executable plan for post-conflict governance that keeps the Assad regime — the main reason for violent extremism in Syria — out of areas liberated from ISIS,” says Fred Hof, a former special adviser to the Obama

He called the previous public total of 503 an “artificial construct” that became increasingly inaccurate as the campaign against the Islamic State progressed.

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Military officials said that the 2,000 personnel in Syria represented something of a high-water mark as the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria winds down. The American-led coalition has retaken 97 percent of the territory once held by the militants, and the military is working to stabilize recently liberated areas, including the restoration of basic essential services, the removal of explosive materials and the distribution of humanitarian aid.

“The campaign to defeat ISIS is now in a new phase in Iraq and Syria,” Col. Robert Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, said, using an acronym for the Islamic State.

Kurds announce IS losses in east Syria with US, Russia help

  Kurds announce IS losses in east Syria with US, Russia help A powerful Syrian Kurdish militia announced on Sunday it had cleared Islamic State group fighters from key territory east of the winding Euphrates River. In a surprising announcement, the People's Protection Units (YPG) also said the victory in Syria's Deir Ezzor province came with logistical and air support from Russia, as well as the US-led coalition, its traditional backer. The YPG was spearheading a US-backed offensive to oust IS from territory east of the Euphrates River, which cuts diagonally across Deir Ezzor, while rival Russian-backed Syrian troops battled IS on the western bank.

Two U . S . officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the Pentagon could, as early as Monday, publicly announce that there are slightly more than 2 , 000 U . S . troops in Syria . That is not an increase in troop numbers, just a more accurate count, as the numbers often fluctuate.

A senior U . S . military commander said Tuesday that 4, 000 American troops are on the ground in Syria , a figure far greater than the 503 personnel the Trump administration says are deployed there. Army Maj.

The updated figure does not reflect troops assigned to classified missions and some Special Operations personnel, Mr. Pahon said. The number also does not include combat aircrews flying from bases outside Iraq and Syria, nor from Navy aircraft carriers at sea.

Mr. Mattis directed the Pentagon months ago to revise how it accounts for deployed personnel fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The Pentagon also announced revised troop numbers in Afghanistan in August, acknowledging publicly for the first time that about 11,000 troops were deployed there.

The numbers of American service members in Syria rose after a decision by President Trump in March to allow subordinate military commanders set the levels of troops they needed. But Colonel Manning said the number of troops in Syria “are generally trending downward,” and noted that an artillery battalion of 400 Marines deployed near Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate, had recently returned to the United States.

Colonel Manning said troop numbers would continue to decline as the American-led coalition transitioned to missions to train and advise local forces.

The Pentagon also announced Wednesday that about 5,200 American troops are serving in Iraq. Colonel Manning said that total did not constitute a troop increase, but rather was a result of the change in the way troop numbers were accounted for and disclosed.

About 3,000 Islamic State fighters remain in Syria, mainly in a strip of land along the Euphrates River Valley south of Deir al-Zour, according to military estimates provided by Mr. Pahon.

Pentagon signals open-ended troop commitment in Syria .
The US military plans on staying in Syria as long as necessary to ensure the Islamic State group does not return, a Pentagon official told AFP on Tuesday, as the fight against the jihadists winds down. "We are going to maintain our commitment on the ground as long as we need to -- to support our partners and prevent the return of terrorist groups," Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon said.The United States currently has approximately 2,000 troops on the ground in Syria, where they have been helping train and advise Kurdish and Arab partner forces in the fight against IS.

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