The real number of American troops deployed to Iraq and Syria exceeds the Pentagon’s official figures by thousands, according to the US government’s own data.
While the Pentagon insists that it has only sent 503 troops to Syria, a quarterly report by the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) puts the number at around 1,720, more than three times higher.
The DMDC is the US Defense Department’s personnel agency and collects data on American troops are serving in individual states and overseas countries.
The same report, issued in September, showed that there were 8,992 American troops in Iraq, almost 3,500 more than the Pentagon’s official tally of 5,262.
Colonel Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, questioned the credibility of DMDC’s numbers, downplaying them as initial estimates for given locations that also factored in short-term deployments and troop rotations in other countries.
“The DMDC numbers are not the official deployment count, the numbers that we provided — the approximately 500 in Syria and approximately 5,000 in Iraq is the official deployment count,” said Manning.
“There are several other things that go into those numbers, it is a snapshot in time and have to also consider that number is quarterly … our official deployment count has not changed,” he added.
Earlier this year, US Defense Secretary James Mattis ordered a review of the actual number of US troops serving in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria to see how many troops had been deployed in those countries beyond the maximum force levels authorized under former President Barack Obama.
So far, however, only the troop numbers for Afghanistan have been publicly disclosed and the Pentagon has no intention of doing the same for the other two countries.
“Some of that is based on operational security, some is based on agreements with partners and allies,” Manning said. “We’re not at a point where we can make an announcement that differs from the numbers we previously stated.”
Nevertheless, the same discrepancy in official numbers can be seen in Afghanistan, where the Pentagon puts the number at 14,000 versus the DMDC’s 15,282. There are also 1,202 Pentagon civilians in the country, according to the DMDC.
“The data is meant to be just an initial estimate and starting point,” a Pentagon official told ABC News. “In addition to the permanently assigned personnel in a country, the data assisted in looking at the possible number of deployed personnel in an area.”