The United States and the Pentagon have disclosed there are significantly more troops in Afghanistan than previously reported. Just a week after President Trump released a new strategy to end the war after 16 years, this report shows that the numbers of US troops to be much higher than previously thought.
According to Pentagon officials, there are 11,000 U.S. soldiers are stationed in Afghanistan, rather than the previously reported 8400 which was capped by the previous administration of President Obama. The majority of the US troops are Special Operations Forces that are tasked with training, advising and assisting local security forces battling jihadis loyal to the Taliban and Islamic State militant group (ISIS).
“This is not a troop increase,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said, according to Reuters. She added that the disclosure was an attempt by the administration to provide more transparency.
Military officials had previously hinted they were hiding the true number of U.S. personnel active in Afghanistan. Nearly 17 years after the U.S. first invaded to dislodge the Islamic government of the Taliban, which refused to give up Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, Trump said he would no longer focus on nation building. Instead, the objective is simply “killing terrorists.”
Trump also said he would no longer provide troop counts or dates or locations of operations, noting that such information could end up in enemy hands. While the Pentagon did offer a troop count in Afghanistan on Wednesday, it declined to release the same figures for Iraq and Syria, where more than 7,900 U.S. troops may be battling ISIS alongside local partners, according to a report published last week by The Military Times. The Pentagon reports only 5,765.
The Pentagon is reporting that 503 Special Operations troops assisting the Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish alliance, are in Syria, but other defense officials have said this could really be as high as 900. In Iraq, the Pentagon states that 5,262 U.S. soldiers are assigned there but that number may be as high as 7,000.
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Photo courtesy DOD