- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 11, 2016

Reporters are coming up empty handed in their attempts to obtain precise figures as to how many U.S. troops are on the ground in Iraq and Syria.

The Pentagon supplies the public with its Force Management Level (FML) for deployments to Iraq and Syria, which consists of full-time troops. FML data puts the total number of troops in Iraq at approximately 3,800 — with another 300 in Syria — but it does not include the number of temporary troops in the region.

The Hill newspaper pressed the Pentagon for a better accounting of U.S. personnel in the region on Thursday but was told by a defense official that U.S. troop levels for temporary deployments “tends to run around.”

The website noted that transparency regarding troop levels has been difficult to obtain for months.

“There’s been a decision made not to release that number,” Army Col. Steve Warren, then a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, told reporters on March 21. “The number that we release is our force management level… I don’t have a reason for not releasing this number other than it’s the orders that I’m under.”

Repeated requests by The Hill for even a “ballpark estimate” since then have been rebuffed.

The website estimates that an upcoming deployment of 400 troops to Iraq, coupled with roughly 900 temporary personnel, will put the total number of U.S. forces on the ground in Iraq and Syria at roughly 5,800. Adding Defense Department personnel to The Hill’s tally puts the number between 8,200 and 10,150.

• Douglas Ernst can be reached at dernst@washingtontimes.com.

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