Pentagon to Acknowledge Official Count of U.S. Troops in Syria

The Pentagon is likely to announce that there are about 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria, two U.S. officials said on Friday, as the military acknowledges that an accounting system for troops has under-reported the size of forces on the ground, Reuters reports.

The U.S. military had earlier claimed it had around 500 troops in Syria, mostly supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces group of Kurdish and Arab militias fighting Islamic State in the north of the country.

However, two U.S. officials said that 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, Reuters adds.

An accounting system, known as the Force Management Level (FML), was introduced in Iraq and Syria during former President Barack Obama’s administration as a way to exert control over the military.

However, the numbers do not reflect the extent of the U.S. commitment on the ground since commanders often found ways to work around the limits – sometimes bringing in forces temporarily or hiring more contractors, Reuters asserts.

The force management levels are officially at 5,262 in Iraq and 503 in Syria, but officials have privately acknowledged in the past that the real number for each country is more than the reported figure.

As that campaign winds down though, it is unclear how many U.S troops will remain in Syria, as most of them are special operations forces, working to train and advise local partner forces, including providing artillery support against Islamic State militants, Reuters notes.

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