DOD acknowledges additional USA troops in Syria

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The U.S. military plans to stay in Syria as long as necessary to ensure the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) does not return, a Pentagon official told AFP on December 5. He said he was doing so as part of a new effort by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to be transparent about how many troops are deployed in harm's way.

Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, said the new number was being provided in the interests of transparency, but stressed the figure was approximate so as to not provide information to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Robert Manning announced the numbers in compliance with Defense Secretary James N. Mattis' direction to give the American people a better idea of the commitment of USA forces in the region.

The US defense Department said that soon will provide information about the exact number of American troops stationed overseas, reports Voice of America.

Manning also said there are about 5,200 troops in Iraq.

"We seek to balance informing the American public with the imperative of operational security and denying the enemy any advantage", he said.

The new numbers exclude sensitive missions and certain types of personnel, such as security personnel attached to the US embassy in Iraq, according to Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon.

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The revision changes long-held procedures to account for troops at the Pentagon.

"That's where we are now", Manning said.

The US-led anti-ISIS military coalition announced Monday that coalition warplanes had conducted 28 airstrikes against ISIS targets near Abu Kamal, Syria, since Friday, striking ISIS tactical units, vehicles and heavy weapons.

The U.S. military, along with other nations in a US-led coalition, began bombing IS in late 2014 but until now has largely declined to address what its role in the tangled conflict might be after the jihadists are beaten.

"To ensure an enduring defeat of ISIS, the coalition must ensure it can not regenerate, reclaim lost ground or plot external attacks", he said. Speaking in California this weekend, White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster said that as much as 80% of pro-Assad forces in Syria are proxy forces controlled by Iran. "If a major shift occurs, then we'll come back out with a new, official number". "That's local forces. That's people who make certain that ISIS doesn't come back", Mattis said, highlighting the United States desire to shift its focus to local forces providing stability.

"We will be in Syria as long as it takes to make sure ISIS does not have the ability to reestablish safe havens... and plan and conduct attacks", said Manning, including that the 78-member USA -led anti-ISIS coalition is committed to the effort. "Nor do they appear to be serious about the withdrawal of Iranian-backed militias".

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