The United States is well known for its ability to deceive, cover-up and cheat on friends and foes. This is not different in Syria, where US troops have invaded the country with numbers that continue to grow despite denial from the Pentagon.
The United States embarked on an opaque war in Syria in which it is unknown exactly how many US troops are deployed and what their role is. But that is about to change.
The Pentagon plans to recognize in the next few days the precise number of US troops that are allegedly fighting stably against the Islamic State. That is when US forces aren’t aiding ISIS terrorists. Last september, US helicopters airlifted a group of ISIS commanders from Deir Ezzor, right before local forces attacked their holding posts.
The figure is surprising. They are, unoficially, about 2,000 soldiers, four times more than publicly announced, as revealed on Friday by military officials.
“We have nothing to announce at this time,” a Pentagon spokesman said when quiestioned about that information.
Officially, the Department of Defense has a “force level” of 503 US troops in Syria, as announced last December, but the real number is much higher than that. Questions about the real numbers of military and/or paramilitary forces led by the US in Syria prompted the Pentagon to announce an update on those numbers this week.
The current denomination is generic since it does not include the temporary deployments or the rotations of units.
A History of Lying about Troop Numbers
For example, last March the additional shipment of 400 soldiers to Syria was announced.
In September, in its statistics on all military personnel, the Pentagon admitted having 1,547 troops in Syria. But publicly the Army has always talked about having around 500 uniformed.
When and how the US military presence in Syria has increased is a mystery. Most are elite soldiers who train and advise local forces in the fight against ISIS, or so they say.
Officially, unlike the interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq of the past decade, the US military cannot enter combat and instead maintains a low profile.
In practice, however, it is unknown what exactly the soldiers and paramilitary contractors are doing in Syria.
It is important to remember that the government of Bashar al-Assad did not invite US forces to enter the country to “help” fight ISIS. Under the government of Barack Obama, US troops entered Syrian territory illegally, much like Mexican and Central American people cross the US southern border.
On the ground the limits set by the bureaucracy are blurred to thousands of kilometers: in recent months there have been circulating photographs of military armored vehicles with large American flags and soldiers “near the front lines”, as noted by an international photographer.
Regime Change. Always Regime Change
After three years of armed support to the opposition against Bashar al-Assad and an interminable internal debate on his future, in September 2014, Washington entered fully into the powder keg of the Syrian civil war.
Washington used the ISIS threat as an excuse to illegally enter the country and destabilize the Assad government.
The US began a campaign of bombing against alleged jihadist positions in Syria, although in many cases, US airplanes actually bombed hospitals and refugee camps.
At the end of 2015, the US deployed the military for the first time in the field, and since then, with Barack Obama and Donald Trump in the White House, the US has been increasing its deployment in Syria with its back to public opinion and politics in the US.
The few reports on the extent of the military footprint have reached a trickle, especially after encounters between US and Russian forces, which support Asad in Syria.
A well known turning point was Trump’s order to attack Syrian military positions in April in retaliation for a false-flag chemical attack against civilians that was meant to appear as if Damascus had ordered it. The US hasn’t shown proof of such a thing until now.
Illegal Bombings in Syrian Territory
According to the sources cited, the Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, had resisted revealing the exact number of troops in Syria for “security reasons” and given the web of interests interwoven between powers.
The territorial decline of ISIS and the pressure of Congress in favor of greater transparency have propitiated the step forward, which could arrive this ween. Another question to be answered is whether, now, with the decline of ISIS, the US will lower its presence in Syria.
What is not planned is for the Pentagon to reveal how many troops it has in Iraq because that is what the Baghdad Government would have asked for, which seeks to minimize any appearance of foreign interference. Officially, the top US military in that country is 5,262 soldiers.
Last September the number was at 7,402 troops, but no one believes official numbers anymore, especially if they come from the Pentagon.
In August, for example, Defense announced that there were 11,000 troops in Afghanistan, thousands more than announced earlier.