Pen­tagon will recog­nise 2,000 US troops in Syria

The Sunday Guardian - - World - WASH­ING­TON REUTERS

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.

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