Pentagon Announces Troop Levels in Iraq, Syria

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About 2,000 American troops are in Syria fighting the Islamic State, a Pentagon spokesman said on Wednesday, nearly four times the total previously disclosed as the Trump administration changes how troop numbers are publicly counted.

Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, said the new number was being provided in the interests of transparency, but stressed the figure was approximate so as to not provide information to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Manning said the U.S. presence in Syria is "conditions-based" to ensure that IS can't reclaim lost ground or plot attacks in the West.

Meanwhile, the United States-led global coalition fighting ISIL estimates that fewer than 3,000 fighters belonging to the militant group remain in Iraq and Syria, its spokesman said on December 5.

However, he promised to be more open in terms of how many troops deployed.

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"This is not an announcement of a troop increase in either Iraq or Syria".

"The troops are changing their stance as a result", he said.

Military officials have long said that despite several high-profile ISIS defeats, military operations against the terror group would continue for some time. The department had previously omitted forces on temporary rotation from the count, along with a number of other groups. "Their collective actions call into question their commitment to deal a lasting defeat to ISIS and other extremist groups", the colonel said.

Moscow doesn't "appear to have a plan on how to bring a meaningful conclusion to the civil war that addresses the fundamental problems that led to the rise of ISIS, nor do they appear to be serious about the withdrawal of Iranian-backed militias", Pahon said.

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Unlike Russia, the United States is not in Syria at the request or approval of the Damascus government. The US maintains two hotlines to directly de-conflict military operations with Russian Federation: one based in Kuwait to handle ground combat, and another to deal with air actions at Al-Udeid air base in Qatar.

A U.S. Marine waits to guide an armored vehicle towing an M777A2 howitzer to a firing position in Syria on May 14, 2017.

Washington has cited Article 51 of a United Nations charter allowing for self-defense of partner forces as legal justification for its military engagement, and that will remain the case going forward.

"As the coalition stops offensive (operations), then, obviously, you don't need that, you need security - you need police forces. That's local forces. That's people who make certain that [IS] doesn't come back", Mattis said.

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USA operations against IS in Iraq and Syria that began in October 2014 have cost American taxpayers almost $16 billion, according to a Pentagon inspector general report unveiled last month.

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