Pentagon: Four times as many United States troops in Syria than previously acknowledged

Pentagon spokesman Army Colonel Rob Manning, who announced the new number, said that troop numbers are now declining in Syria. The revised number of USA troops in Iraq remained the same as was previously acknowledged, about 5,200, although Manning said the number of US forces was also trending downward.

The US defense Department said that soon will provide information about the exact number of American troops stationed overseas, reports Voice of America.

U.S. officials are refusing to put precise timelines on the new phase of the anti-IS mission.

"We will be in Syria as long as it takes to make sure that ISIS is not afforded the ability to reestablish safe havens and plan and conduct attacks", he said of the Trump administration's "conditions-based strategy".

Over the summer, hundreds of USA troops - including Special Operations forces and artillerymen - deployed to Syria as the assault on Raqqa was prepared. Last week, about 400 Marines in an artillery unit - 1st Battalion, 10th Marines - that was carrying out strikes against the Islamic State in the city of Raqqa returned to the United States. Some 3,000 IS fighters remain distributed between Iraq and Syria, according to coalition estimates.

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"We are going to be in Syria for some time yet".

The revision changes long-held procedures to account for troops at the Pentagon.

Mattis also said that the United States was adjusting its support to the Syrian Democratic Forces, a mix of Kurdish and Arab troops that have led the US-backed fight against ISIS in Syria, suggesting that offensive weapons would no longer be provided to the Kurdish elements of the SDF, a change long sought by America's North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally Turkey. He said he was doing so as part of a new effort by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to be transparent about how many troops are deployed in harm's way. Critics say the policy masked the true extent of United States forces fighting IS and prevented the USA military from using support troops, such as mechanics and equipment maintainers in-theater, creating greater reliance on contractors.

He reiterated USA support for the United Nations -led talks in Geneva peace talks. The department had previously omitted forces on temporary rotation from the count, along with a number of other groups. "Their collective actions call into question their commitment to dealing a lasting defeat to [IS] and other extremist groups".

"They also do not appear to have a plan for how to bring a meaningful conclusion to the civil war that addresses the fundamental problems that led to the rise of ISIS". Speaking in California this weekend, White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster said that as much as 80% of pro-Assad forces in Syria are proxy forces controlled by Iran.

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