Pentagon revises United States troops numbers in Syria and Iraq

Adjust Comment Print

The Pentagon is publicly revealing that a larger number of USA troops are stationed in Syria, after helping local fighters clear most Islamic State-held areas in the war-torn country.

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.

Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning also said that 5,200 USA troops are serving in Iraq, consistent with the previous count.

The U.S. 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. Asked what the top number of US troops in Syria was, he said he would have to check.

The Defense Department under Secretary Jim Mattis had promised to provide more accurate estimates of USA troops stationed overseas. The revised number of USA troops in Iraq remained the same as was previously acknowledged, about 5,200, although Manning said the number of US forces was also trending downward. Some 3,000 IS fighters remain distributed between Iraq and Syria, according to coalition estimates.

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

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

Last week, the US-led coalition announced it would withdraw 400 American Marines from combat who led a monthslong artillery barrage against IS in Raqqa.

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.

The disclosure comes about five weeks after a senior US military officer, Army Maj.

"Operating under recognized global authorities, the USA military will continue to support local partner forces in Syria to stabilize liberated territory", Pahon said. "Their collective action call into question their commitment to deal a lasting defeat to ISIS and other extremist groups".

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.

Manning added that Syria and Russian Federation did not offer a plan "for how to bring about a meaningful conclusion to the civil war" by addressing the future presence of terrorist groups like IS and Iran-backed Shiite militias that have flowed into the country.

Iraqi, Syrian and coalition forces will continue to capitalize on the momentum generated "and apply continuous pressure on the terrorist networks wherever they operate", Manning said.