Pentagon will recognise 2,000 US troops in Syria
The Pentagon is likely to announce in the coming days that there are about 2,000 US troops in Syria, two US officials said on Friday, as the military acknowledges that an accounting system for troops has under-reported the size of forces on the ground. The US military had earlier publicly said 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. Two US officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the Pentagon could, as early as Monday, publicly announce that there are slightly more than 2,000 US troops in Syria. They said there was always a possibility that last minute changes in schedules could delay an announcement. 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. But the numbers do not reflect the extent of the US commitment on the ground since commanders often found ways to work around the limits. The force management levels are officially at 5,262 in Iraq and 503 in Syria. The Pentagon said last December that it would increase the number of authorised troops in Syria to 500, but it is not clear how long the actual number has been at around 2,000. Obama periodically raised FML limits to allow more troops in Iraq and Syria as the fight against Islamic State advanced. As that campaign winds down, it is unclear how many, if any, US troops will remain in Syria. Most of them are special operations forces, working to train and advise local partner forces, including providing artillery support against Islamic State militants.