How many US ground troops are fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria? That’s a question that a lot of people are wondering about, particularly since the Pentagon has time and again admitted that its official figures, 3,825 in Iraq and 300 in Syria, are an absolute fiction.
Indeed, according to Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren, there’s been an explicit decision made by the Pentagon not to publicly reveal the number of troops active in either Iraq or Syria. Centcom has previously claimed that the numbers are kept secret because “those numbers fluctuate on a daily basis.”
Still, estimates that have come out have put the number of ground troops just in Iraq well in excess of 5,000, and at times closer to 6,000. The official numbers only apply to “permanent” troops, which is totally arbitrary because Pentagon officials have conceded that many of the other troops have equally open-ended deploy dates, and are just labeled “temporary.”
Part of this is a function of the “cap” negotiated with the Iraqi government, as not disclosing the figure has allowed the Pentagon to keep secret exactly how far above that cap they’ve already gone, while allowing the Abadi government a bit of face-saving.
The White House has shrugged off growing media calls for better transparency on the scope of the war, insisting that they have “no direct control” on how the Pentagon discloses, or in this case refuses to disclose, troop numbers in an ongoing war.