In what might have been just an honest mistake or a dangerous faux pas, the Commander of the Joint Special Operations Task Force charged with expelling the Islamist terrorists from Iraq and Syria said on Tuesday that there were 4000 US troops in Syria. That number far exceeds the 503 that the Trump administration said are deployed there.
Speaking from Baghdad in a televised press briefing, Major General James Jarrad gave the surprising number to the assembled press corps. When asked by a reporter to confirm the 4000-troop total, Jarrad appeared to be caught off guard.
But a Pentagon Public Affairs Officer, acting as a facilitator for the press conference, interjected, quickly stating that the number was indeed 503.
It’s not immediately clear whether Jarrard misspoke or, in fact, divulged information that reflects the true scope of U.S. military activity in Syria. Neither the Pentagon nor the U.S.-led military coalition based in Baghdad has responded to a request seeking clarification.
It has long been an open secret that the Pentagon has far more personnel involved in the campaign against the Islamic State than its publicly disclosed figures suggest. Hundreds of additional American forces — including Special Operations troops, forward air controllers and artillery crews — moved into Syria to back up allies as they prepared to assault Raqqa, which was the Islamic State’s self-declared capital until its fall this month.
The Pentagon says there are 5,200 U.S. troops in neighboring Iraq, though the number is believed to be much higher.
The Pentagon spokesman told the media that the general just made a mistake, however, there are unsubstantiated rumors that over there are over 2000 Special Operations troops and Marines that are assisting and advising the US-backed Syrian fighters trying to expel the Islamic State from Syria.
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