About 2,000 American troops are operating in Syria, the Pentagon announced Wednesday, acknowledging four times the servicemembers in the embattled nation than it had disclosed.
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. Moments later, a Pentagon spokesman, Eric Pahon, interjected in the same news conference that the number of US troops actually was about 500, the number the Defense Department has long used for Syria.
The Defense Department announced today there are 2,000 USA troops in Syria, after last month reporting there were only 500.
The Pentagon said the new public estimate still does not account for all USA troops in Iraq and Syria. He said he was doing so as part of a new effort by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to be transparent about how many troops are deployed in harm's way. Gen. James B. Jarrard, told reporters during a news conference that there were about 4,000 USA troops in Syria.
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"This is not an announcement of a troop increase in either Iraq or Syria". The department had previously omitted forces on temporary rotation from the count, along with a number of other groups.
Pahon said its troop commitment in Syria would be "conditions-based", meaning that no timeline will determine if and when the United States will pull out.
Manning noted that troop numbers in Syria are "trending downward".
"It's approximately 2,000 now, could be more, could be less, we don't want to showcase our capabilities to the enemy", Manning said at the Pentagon.
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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.
"We will be in Syria as long as it takes to make sure ISIS does not have the ability to reestablish safe havens... and plan and conduct attacks", said Manning, including that the 78-member USA -led anti-ISIS coalition is committed to the effort.
But with Syrian negotiators walking out on the UN-backed Geneva talks this week, the Pentagon offered its heaviest criticism of Russian-led military efforts in recent memory.
"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. That's local forces. That's people who make certain that ISIS doesn't come back", Mattis said, highlighting the USA desire to shift its focus to local forces providing stability.
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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.