By Ray Downs – UPI
The U.S. military has about 2,000 troops in Syria, which is four times the number Pentagon officials previously acknowledged, officials said Wednesday.
The new number doesn’t necessarily mean more troops have been deployed. Rather, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis recently revised how the Pentagon accounts for deployed soldiers in special operations zone, Voice of America reported. And the new figures likely mean a more accurate count of troops who have already been in Syria for some time.
“In implementing this change, we seek to balance informing the American public with the imperative of operational security and denying the enemy any advantage,” Pentagon spokesman Army Colonel Robert Manning said.
Until recently, there were even more U.S. troops in Syria than the official 2,000 estimate. According to Foreign Policy, the Pentagon withdrew 400 Marines who were providing artillery support to U.S.-backed Syrian rebels.
Manning said U.S. troop numbers in Syria “will be determined by conditions on the ground.”
“We will be in Syria as long as it takes to make sure that [the Islamic State] is not afforded the ability to re-establish safe havens and conduct attacks,” he said.
Under the revised method of counting, there are 5,200 troops in Iraq and more than 14,000 in Afghanistan.
Officially, there are about 200,000 U.S. troops stationed around the world.