Pentagon: Four times as many USA troops in Syria than previously acknowledged

Pentagon: US committed to Syria until ISIS areas stabilized

Pentagon signals open-ended troop commitment in Syria

The Defense Department announced today there are 2,000 USA troops in Syria, after last month reporting there were only 500. As recently as last month the Pentagon said there were about 500 USA troops in Syria. That number reflects the official 5,262 "force management level" previously reported by the Pentagon.

ISIS has lost about 97 percent of the land it once controlled across Syria and Iraq, Manning said Wednesday, but small pockets of fighters remain in both countries.

Manning also said there were approximately 5,200 US troops in Iraq.

The United States now has approximately 2,000 troops on the ground in Syria, where they have been helping train and advise partner forces in the fight against ISIL.

"It still excludes certain sensitive missions and certain personnel", said spokesman Eric Pahon, after being asked if the count includes US troops that "enable" local partner forces.

The Pentagon first announced plans to revise the number on August 31, when they unveiled a higher troop count in Afghanistan.

"The secretary has been clear about improving our public reporting while increasing commanders' ability to adapt to changing battlefield conditions to counter emerging threats", the colonel said.

"We seek to balance informing the American public with the imperative of operational security and denying the enemy any advantage", he said. Last week, about 400 Marines in an artillery unit - 1st Battalion, 10th Marines - that was carrying out strikes against the Islamic State in the city of Raqqa returned to the United States.

Repeating previous statements from defense officials, Manning said that the U.S.is taking a "conditions-based" approach to the conflict against ISIS in Syria and is working with local partner forces to restore basic utilities and stand up local governments and police forces.

Officials said the amount of forces are declining in Syria and Iraq as operations shift away from combat and more toward train and advise, explosives cleanup, reconstruction, and maintaining security and preventing ISIS from returning. With the liberation, fewer US forces are needed to support Iraqi and Syrian forces kinetically.

As troops enter a stabilization phase, U.S. officials said there will not be clear front lines as American troops support efforts to remove mines and other explosives, return displaced people to their homes and support the growth of indigenous institutions in former IS-held territory that hasn't been seized by President Bashar al-Assad - who has long called the United States presence illegitimate - or Russian and Iranian forces backing the embattled Syrian leader. "Their collective action call into question their commitment to deal a lasting defeat to ISIS and other extremist groups".

Manning added that Syria and Russian Federation did not offer a plan "for how to bring about a meaningful conclusion to the civil war" by addressing the future presence of terrorist groups like IS and Iran-backed Shiite militias that have flowed into the country. "Nor do they appear to be serious about the withdrawal of Iranian-backed militias", said Manning.

"ISIS left a minefield when they started walking out", he said.

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