The US military has finally acknowledged that there are around 2,000 US troops in Syria, confirming reports that it previously disputed about the real troop levels in the Arab country.
Pentagon spokesman Army Colonel Rob Manning announced the new number on Wednesday, claiming that it was declining.
Washington was going to take a “conditions-based” approach to removing its forces from Syria, Manning said.
Although the number does not mean that the US has been sending additional troops, it still confirms earlier government data that contradicted the Pentagon’s official count.
While the Pentagon insisted a month ago that it had only sent 503 troops in Syria, a quarterly report by the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) put the number at around 1,720, more than three times higher.
The same report, issued in September, showed that there were 8,992 American troops in Iraq, almost 3,500 more than the Pentagon’s official tally of 5,262.
In response, the Pentagon disputed the numbers offered by DMDC, the US Defense Department’s personnel agency which collects data on American troops serving in individual states and overseas countries.
Back then, Manning questioned the credibility of DMDC’s numbers, downplaying them as initial estimates for given locations that also factored in short-term deployments and troop rotations in other countries.
“The DMDC numbers are not the official deployment count, the numbers that we provided — the approximately 500 in Syria and approximately 5,000 in Iraq is the official deployment count,” said Manning.
“There are several other things that go into those numbers, it is a snapshot in time and have to also consider that number is quarterly … our official deployment count has not changed,” the official added.
The US has claimed that it would gradually remove its troops from Syria to stabilize areas liberated from militant control while bolstering local groups controlling those areas.
Syria, however, accuses the US of plotting to partition the country by helping terrorist groups regain power and form their own governments.