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>> As the US prepares to up its troop count in Afghanistan, the Pentagon is coming clean on the number of its soldiers actually serving in the country. Washington admitting on Wednesday that that number is 11,000, significantly more than what it said publicly in the past. Officially, troop numbers are kept at about 8,400 by rules from the Obama era.
But as Reuters Josh Smith explains, it's been an open secret that commanders get around the limits.>> Ever since former President Barrack Obama set these limits in coordination with the Pentagon, the military has been authorized in many cases quite a few exceptions to these troop caps. Some of those include troops who are here under the quite secretive counter terrorism mission targeting elements of Islamic State, as well as Al Qaeda.
Many other troops here, however, are on more boring missions including several hundred troops who are here to help send the equipment back to the United States. Many more troops also exempted from that count are troops who are here to replace other troops and they happen to overlap at the same time.
Other troops who are here on so called temporary assignments that are generally less than 120 days.>> Officials say the announcement on the actual numbers of troops only came after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis got frustrated with the system to count US troops in combat zones. Saying he wants a complete head count before making any decision on how many more troops will be sent under Donald Trump's Fight to Win plan.
According to the Pentagon, Mattis also had the troop numbers in Syria and Iraq under review. US officials suggesting there could be more than 2,000 soldiers in each country beyong numbers issued to the public. For now though, both of those head counts remain classified. Authorities say in Iraq at least, the US presence is politically sensitive trumping any need for transparency with the American public.