The Biden administration is in no rush to reverse a Trump-era policy change that allowed the Pentagon to stop disclosing the number of troops deployed in combat zones in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.
Troop numbers in combat zones used to be disclosed in quarterly reports by the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC). But that changed in December 2017, when the DMDC began excluding data for troops deployed in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
On Monday, when asked about the policy, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby signaled that the policy would not be changed any time soon. “We’re working through specific policy decisions on that right now,” he said.
Kirby said the Biden administration has been speaking in “broad brushes” about troop numbers in those three countries. He said there are currently less than 1,000 troops in Syria and roughly 2,500 in Iraq.
When it comes to Afghanistan, US Central Command has been releasing weekly updates on the withdrawal but has not been disclosing troop numbers. Kirby said the Pentagon is no longer sharing “specific numbers” in Afghanistan “to maintain a measure of operational security.”
Before President Biden ordered the Afghanistan withdrawal, the Pentagon said there were 2,500 troops in Afghanistan. But a report from The New York Times that cited US, European, and Afghan officials, said the US actually had 3,500 troops in Afghanistan, an example of how the Pentagon can hide troop numbers if it’s not required to release official data.