Pentagon revises USA troops numbers in Syria and Iraq

US special operations forces near Raqqa Syria

Last month, the U.S. said there were only 503 USA troops in Syria and 5,262 United States troops in Iraq.

Manning said Wednesday that it took weeks for the Pentagon to release the new official number because military officials wanted to make sure that it was right.

"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.

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

Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, said the new number was being provided in the interests of transparency, but stressed the figure was approximate so as to not provide information to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

The figure reflects an order by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to revise how the Pentagon accounted for deployed personnel carrying out major operations in Iraq and Syria.

The US military said it would also continue to support its local allies, the Syrian Democratic Forces, as they move to stabilize eastern Syria following a series of military victories over ISIS. The department had previously omitted forces on temporary rotation from the count, along with a number of other groups.

"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.

"We seek to balance informing the American public with the imperative of operational security and denying the enemy any advantage", he said.

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.

Mattis said last week that the USA effort in Syria is pivoting from a military-led operation to a diplomatic-led endeavor.

Repeating previous statements from defense officials, Manning said that the U.S.is taking a "conditions-based" approach to the conflict against ISIS in Syria and is working with local partner forces to restore basic utilities and stand up local governments and police forces.

The disclosure comes about five weeks after a senior US military officer, Army Maj. "Their collective actions call into question their commitment to dealing a lasting defeat to [IS] and other extremist groups".

Russia has claimed its presence is primarily to thwart jihadist groups but the Pentagon says only a tiny portion of Russian strikes have targeted IS. "Nor do they appear to be serious about the withdrawal of Iranian-backed militias".

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