The Pentagon said the new public estimate still does not account for all USA troops in Iraq and Syria.
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.
Now that it's the first week of December, that official figure has shot up to 2,000, even though no new troops were deployed, and indeed over 400 had just left. The Pentagon first announced plans to revise the number on August 31, when they unveiled a higher troop count in Afghanistan.
Manning also said on Wednesday there are about 5,200 US troops in Iraq - a number that remains unchanged from past reports - but said that it is also shrinking. Needless to say, it's expected this 2,000 level is closer to true than the 502.
Army Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, disclosed the number in a gathering with journalists. Critics say the policy masked the true extent of USA forces fighting IS and prevented the United States military from using support troops, such as mechanics and equipment maintainers in-theater, creating greater reliance on contractors. Manning said the delay was in an effort to "get it right".
"Important work remains to ensure lasting defeat" of ISIS, he said. Manning said the USA presence in Syria is "conditions-based" to ensure that IS can't reclaim lost ground or plot attacks in the West.
"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 told AFP.
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He reiterated USA support for the United Nations -led talks in Geneva peace talks.
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. About 3 percent of Syria remained under Islamic State control.
The move bitterly angered US commanders, who saw it as giving the Taliban a countdown on when they could resume operations in earnest.
Photo Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in October in Washington.
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.
"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".
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.