Pentagon admits USA has 2000 troops in Syria

USA forces in Syria and Iraq are "trending downward", he added, without specifying whether the 2,000 troops in Syria included the 400 Marine artillerymen that the Pentagon announced last week would soon leave the country. That number is now at closer to 14,000 after the Pentagon sent roughly 3,000 additional USA troops to help end the 16-year conflict in Afghanistan.

Manning announced the new official figure for American servicemembers in Syria on Wednesday, saying Defense Secretary Jim Mattis wants to increase transparency about where and how troops are deployed. The revised number of USA troops in Iraq remained the same as was previously acknowledged, about 5,200, although Manning said the number of US forces was also trending downward.

ISIS has lost about 97 percent of the land it once controlled across Syria and Iraq, Manning said Wednesday, but small pockets of fighters remain in both countries.

"The Syrian regime and Russian federation's actions have thus far demonstrated that countering [IS] and other violent extremist groups like [Jabhat Fatah al-Sham] and al-Qaeda is not their foremost priority", Manning said.

Pahon said the USA troop commitment would be "conditions-based", meaning no timeline will determine any pull out.

In Syria, under Obama administration accounting practices known as Force Management Levels, the Pentagon only acknowledged 503 troops in Syria, though officials privately admitted there were significantly more forces there.

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The Obama-era policy - continued under President Trump until recently - aimed to draw down U.S. troops in Afghanistan and create a limited presence to defeat IS in Iraq and Syria. Last week, about 400 Marines in an artillery unit - 1st Battalion, 10th Marines - that was carrying out strikes against the Islamic State in the city of Raqqa returned to the United States.

"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.

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.

Furthermore, Russia and Syria do not "appear to be serious about the withdrawal of Iranian-backed militias" operating in Syria, Pahon said.

A solution to the Syrian civil war is the best way to ensure groups like ISIS do not take advantage of the chaos and confusion to impose their ideology, the colonel said. He said the US -led coalition would continue to apply "continuous pressure on the terrorist networks wherever they operate".

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