The Pentagon has released its quarterly report on personnel. In it it discloses it now has 1,723 soldiers stationed in Syria. Three months ago the number was 1,251 – that’s an increase of nearly 40 percent in just ninety days. The 1,700 may not be the total number either, since the secretive first-tier special forces are often not counted.
This means the US now has more troops stationed in Syria against the will of its national government, than in nine US states. As of May 2016 the US military had fewer than 1,700 active duty soldiers stationed in Indiana (950), Iowa (263), Maine (758), Minnesota (649), New Hampshire (834), Oregon (1535), Vermont (156), West Virginia (258) and Wisconsin (968).
Moreover, the US has another 5,000 in neighboring Jordan and Turkey combined, and another 9,000 in Iraq where it plans to erect a network of desert bases to control the Iraq-Syrian border from the Iraqi side. Its total forces in the Middle East rose from 40,000 three months ago to 54,000 now – an increase of 33 percent.
The disclosure that there are over 1,700 US soldiers on the ground in Syria is all the more significant because US generals have been stubbornly repeating the mantra that there are just 503 – which has not been accurate for over a year now:
On November 16—the day before the newest numbers were made public—Joint Staff Director Lieutenant General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. was asked about troop numbers in Syriaand Iraq at a press briefing, and he said, “In Syria, we have five—about 503 operating in Syria. And in Iraq, we have approximately 5,262, I believe is the number. So those are the numbers.”
On Nov. 16, Lt. Gen. McKenzie said there were "abut 503" US troops in Syria.
On Nov. 17, Pentagon released its official quarterly data…it said 1,720 troops.
— Micah Zenko (@MicahZenko) November 21, 2017
Another instance on October 31:
A senior U.S. military commander said Tuesday that 4,000 American troops are on the ground in Syria, a figure far greater than the 503 personnel the Trump administration says are deployed there.
Army Maj. Gen. James B. Jarrard, who heads the U.S.-led Special Operations task force targeting the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, offered the surprising figure while briefing Pentagon-based reporters via satellite from Baghdad.
When asked to confirm the 4,000 figure, Jarrard appeared to be caught off guard. He then apologized and said the number is about 500. Eric Pahon, a Pentagon spokesman facilitating the briefing, interjected moments later, insisting the number is just 503.
Wow. Question on how many US troops are in Syria. MG initially says 4,000 (!) then apologizes, changes to 500 after a follow-up. pic.twitter.com/ru92GkU3PW
— Jake Godin (@JakeGodin) October 31, 2017
US has 10 military bases in northern Syria and one in southern Syria at al-Tanf near the Syria-Jordan-Iraq tri-border.
In the base at al-Tanf at least 150 US troops are holed up together with a few hundred Syrian rebels on Pentagon’s payroll. Also stationed there is a battery of US longe-range rocket artillery (HIMARS). The US has declared a 50 kilometer kill zone around the base and has bombed and killed Syrian army soldiers who allegedly came “too close” to the US base on Syrian territory on three separate occasions killing about a dozen.
In the north US bases have been constructed in part of Syria under the control of US-backed, Kurdish-dominated SDF. At least two of the bases in the north now have an airstrip large enough to accommodate military transport planes. Transports bring in aid for the SDF, as well as supplies for US helicopters, special forces and artillery augmenting the SDF.