Pentagon confirms 11,000 troops are in Afghanistan, 2.6k more than reported before
The troop levels, aimed at “more transparency,” were revealed at a joint news briefing by the Pentagon’s Chief Spokesperson and Joint Staff Director Wednesday.
The new numbers add 2,600 to the previously voiced figure of 8,400. They do not, however, represent a troop increase in line with US President Donald Trump's recently announced new Afghanistan strategy.
“This is not a troop increase,” Pentagon Chief spokeswoman Dana White specifically said.
Instead, the latest voiced figure is a “reality over the past 6 months” the Joint Staff Director added.
The 8,400 troops cap for Afghanistan was imposed during the Obama administration.
The release of the new figures followed the implementation of new accounting methods, as even the US Secretary of Defense James Mattis himself was unsure how many troops he had in Afghanistan.
“We had to change how they were accounting for them, because there were so many different pockets,” Mattis said earlier in August. “We in this building couldn’t figure it out. I had to change the accounting process because we couldn’t figure out how many troops we had there.”
Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White declined to provide US troop numbers for Iraq and Syria.
Despite the newly revealed larger presence of US troops in the country, higher than the cap allowed, the public count was kept low. Various accounting tactics were used for that, including labeling some troops as “temporarily” deployed and omitting troops in transfer. Prior to the release of the latest figures, media reports indicated that the number of the US troops in Afghanistan was likely around 12,000.
About 2,400 Americans have died in the war, the longest in US history. Trump is the third American president promising to win the war, preceded by George W. Bush, who originally sent troops to Afghanistan, and Obama, who repeatedly vowed to pull them out.
Almost a half of American voters support President Donald Trump’s plan to increase troops in Afghanistan, while almost the same number oppose the plan, a recent poll showed. In addition, some 24 percent of voters think the United States is winning the Afghanistan War, while 40 percent think it is losing.
Still, the US is expected to deploy more troops to the country following the announcement of the new Afghan strategy by President Trump. The exact figures are still not known yet, as the military was first focused on counting the servicemen already on the ground.
“I'd prefer not to go into those numbers right now. The first thing I have to do is level the bubble and account for everybody who's on the ground there now, the idea being that we're not going to have different buckets that we're accounting for them in, to tell you what the total number is. And there is a number that I'm authorized to go up to,” Mattis said last Tuesday in Baghdad.