Pentagon Gets Flexability on Troops
04/27/2017 06:16:00 AM
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Pentagon Gets Flexability on Troops 04/27 06:15
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The White House is giving the Pentagon greater
flexibility to determine the number of U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria, in
another move by President Donald Trump to shift greater power to his military
The decision will give Defense Secretary Jim Mattis the authority to send
more forces into Syria, to assist U.S.-backed local troops as they move to
retake Raqqa from the Islamic State group, which has used the city as a de
It will also let him adjust the force numbers in Iraq, in the ongoing fight
to oust the Islamic State group from Mosul and stabilize it as the rebuilding
The Pentagon has already been making quiet, incremental additions to the
troop levels in both countries in recent months, adding hundreds of Marines in
Syria to provide artillery support, and sending more advisers into Iraq to work
with units closer to the fight in Mosul. Those moves were done with White House
approval, but without any formal adjustment to the longstanding troop caps that
had been set by the Obama administration.
Dana White, chief spokesperson for the Pentagon, said Wednesday that Mattis
has not made any changes yet to the current authorized force levels.
Under the Obama White House, military leaders chafed about micromanagement
that forced commanders to get approvals for routine tactical decisions and
personnel moves. They also had to provide justification for any troops sent
into war zones. Commanders have argued that they should be able to determine
troop deployments based on the military capabilities they believe are needed at
any given time.
The new authority will provide greater transparency about the actual number
of U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria after several years of public confusion about
the accurate totals. Under the Obama-mandated caps, the U.S. was limited to 503
officially deployed troops in Syria, and 5,262 in Iraq. The Pentagon, however,
has closer to 7,000 in Iraq, and hundreds more than the cap in Syria, but
doesn't count them because they are on temporary duty or not counted under
specific personnel rules.
The change, however, could trigger concerns --- particularly in Iraq, where
there are political sensitivities about the footprint of American and coalition
troops and fears about occupation forces. Officials worry that if they publicly
acknowledge there are thousands more troops there, it could fuel opposition and
problems for the Iraqi government.
Trump's decision applies only to the two countries, and so far does not
affect Afghanistan, although that change has also been discussed.
"This does not represent a change in our mission in Iraq and Syria to defeat
ISIS," said White, using another name for the Islamic State group. She said the
U.S. will continue to work through and with local forces, but that giving
Mattis the authority to make troop-level decisions will allow commanders to be
"more agile, adaptive and efficient in supporting our partners, and enables
decisions that benefit unit readiness, cohesion and lethality."
She added that the change will allow the Pentagon be more open with Congress
and the public.
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