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US vastly 'under-reported' troop numbers in Syria

The true number of US troops in Syria has been under-reported [AFP]

Date of publication: 25 November, 2017

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Pentagon officials have told Reuters there are around 2,000 US troops in Syria, a figure way above official figures and a fact that will soon be publicly acknowledged.

More than 2,000 US troops are in Syria, Pentagon officials have said, a number way above figures officially acknowleged by the Washington administration.

Two US officials said that Washington's presence in Syria has been hugely "under-reported", which is officially around 500.

Washington is likely to officially acknowledge the true scale of the US presence on the ground in Syria over the coming days, the two sources told Reuters.

US troops are known to be training and providing support to the Arab-Kurdish fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces, which has been battling the Islamic State group in northern and eastern Syria.

This is in addition to the thousands of troops in Iraq also supporting anti-IS forces there, and the US air force which has been providing crucial air support to the SDF in Syria and government, Kurdish forces in Iraq.

Former President Barack Obama introduced the Force Management Level accounting system to keep track of the military's movements in the two countries.

US commanders often found loopholes around the limit to boost the numbers, such as using contractors or bringing in troops temporarily.

Officially the Force Management Level officially acknowleged 5,262 troops in Iraq and 503 in Syria.

Many of these troops are from the US special forces, trainers, logistics and artillery units.

Troop limits were periodically eased during specific times in Obama's presidency - such as during IS offensives - and the Pentagon said in December it would increase the level.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have won huge areas in Syria, thanks in part to Washington's armed support.

Washington's relationship with the Kurdish-dominated anti-IS group has led to tensions with NATO ally Turkey.

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