Pen­tagon: More troops in Afghanistan than re­ported

About 11,000 cur­rently de­ployed, more than al­lowed un­der pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion’s cap

The Day - - WORLD & NATION - By LOLITA C. BALDOR

Wash­ing­ton — The Pen­tagon is poised to have roughly 15,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan in the com­ing months, as de­fense of­fi­cials on Wed­nes­day fi­nally ac­knowl­edged the ac­tual num­ber of Amer­i­can forces in the coun­try af­ter long cam­ou­flag­ing the to­tal in mis­lead­ing ac­count­ing mea­sures and red tape.

Se­nior De­fense of­fi­cials for the first time said there are about 11,000 U.S. forces cur­rently de­ployed to Afghanistan — thou­sands more than the 8,400 that were al­lowed un­der the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion’s troop cap. Mil­i­tary of­fi­cials have long qui­etly ac­knowl­edged there were far more forces in the coun­try than the cap al­lowed, but com­man­ders shuf­fled troops in and out, la­beled many “tem­po­rary,” and used other per­son­nel ac­count­ing tac­tics to ar­ti­fi­cially keep the public count low.

The of­fi­cials, how­ever, re­fused to pro­vide sim­i­lar de­tails for Iraq and Syria, where there also are thou­sands more than the Pen­tagon pub­licly ad­mits.

Chief Pen­tagon spokeswoman Dana White said that while the same “prin­ci­ples of trans­parency” will ap­ply in Iraq and Syria, those coun­tries have their own in­ter­ests. There have long been po­lit­i­cal sen­si­tiv­i­ties within the Iraq gov­ern­ment about the num­ber of Amer­i­can troops on the ground, and those con­cerns raise ques­tions about whether the Pen­tagon will be less can­did about force num­bers there to avoid con­flicts.

Based on troop caps in­sti­tuted by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, the num­ber of U.S. forces in Iraq has con­sis­tently been re­ported as 5,262, but of­fi­cials say there are ac­tu­ally more than 7,000. And there are at least 1,500 U.S. troops in Syria — three times the 503 that the Pen­tagon will ac­knowl­edge. White said de­tails on troop num­bers in Iraq and Syria would be an­nounced in the fu­ture.

The troop num­bers an­nounce­ment comes as the Pen­tagon is pre­par­ing to de­ploy sev­eral thou­sand more Amer­i­cans to Afghanistan, in or­der to ex­pand the train­ing and ad­vis­ing of Afghan forces and beef up coun­tert­er­ror op­er­a­tions against the Tal­iban and al-Qaida-linked groups in the coun­try. Of­fi­cials have said the U.S. will send as many as 3,900 more troops to the war — which would bring the num­ber of pub­licly rec­og­nized troops there to about 15,000. The of­fi­cials were not au­tho­rized to dis­cuss the fu­ture de­ploy­ments pub­licly so spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity.

Lt. Gen. Frank McKen­zie, director of the Joint Staff, said pro­vid­ing more truth­ful num­bers “is an at­tempt to ac­tu­ally clar­ify a very con­fus­ing set of re­port­ing rules that has the un­in­tended con­se­quence of forc­ing com­man­ders to make readi­ness trade­offs as they de­ploy their forces.”

The troop num­bers an­nounce­ment comes as the Pen­tagon is pre­par­ing to de­ploy sev­eral thou­sand more Amer­i­cans to Afghanistan, in or­der to ex­pand the train­ing and ad­vis­ing of Afghan forces and beef up coun­tert­er­ror op­er­a­tions against the Tal­iban and al-Qaida-linked groups in the coun­try.

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