- US Air Force photo/Senior Airman John Linzmeier
The Pentagon is no longer going to disclose how many troops are in Iraq and Syria, a sharp departure from an Obama administration policy that kept the public abreast of increased troop deployments to the region.
Though the US military has increasingly deployed conventional ground forces in its fight against ISIS in recent months, to include US Army Rangers and US Marine artillerymen, neither were announced by the Department of Defense.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the reason is due to a policy shift from the Trump administration.
“In order to maintain tactical surprise, ensure operational security and force protection, the coalition will not routinely announce or confirm information about the capabilities, force numbers, locations, or movement of forces in or out of Iraq and Syria,” Eric Pahon, a Pentagon spokesman, told the Times.
The Pentagon did not immediately respond to additional questions from Business Insider.
The US military seems to be taking on a larger role in the coalition effort to topple ISIS, with special operations forces already in the region being augmented by more traditional US troops. In early March, a convoy of US Army Rangers riding in armored Stryker combat vehicles were seen crossing the border into Syria to support Kurdish military forces in Manbij. The convoy, identified by SOFREP as being from 3rd Ranger Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment, was the most overt use of US troops in the region thus far.
Until this most recent Ranger deployment, the Pentagon had adamantly stuck to the line that its “regional partners” – Iraqi security forces and Kurdish Peshmerga for the most part – were bearing the brunt of the battle.
The Ranger deployment was followed by a contingent of US Marines from the 1st Battalion, 4th Marine regiment, which left their ships to establish a combat outpost inside Syria that is apparently within striking distance of Raqqa, the terror group’s capital.
Additional combat troops from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit and the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division are heading there as well.
The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces recently launched an operation to seize the Tabqa Dam from ISIS control, which has been supported by advisors and US airstrikes, artillery, and helicopters, according to the Institute for the Study of War.
There are currently around 6,000 US troops on the ground in Iraq and Syria, according to Military Times, though even that number does not tell the whole story since the Pentagon assigns troops to the region on a “temporary” basis that does not contribute to its total count.