Top US general: 4,000 American troops in Syria. Pentagon: There are 503.
By ANDREW DEGRANDPRE | The Washington Post | Published: October 31, 2017
A senior U.S. military commander said Monday 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 Jarrard, who heads the U.S.-led special operations task force responsible for dismantling 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. A Pentagon spokesman facilitating the briefing then interjected, insisting the number is just 503.
It's not immediately clear whether Jarrard misspoke or, in fact, divulged information that reflects the true scope of U.S. military activity in Syria. Neither the Pentagon nor the U.S.-led military coalition based in Baghdad has responded to a request seeking clarification.
It has long been an open secret that the Pentagon has far more personnel involved in the campaign against the Islamic State than its publicly disclosed figures suggest. Hundreds of additional American forces - including Special Operations troops, forward air controllers and artillery crews - moved into Syria to back up allies as they prepared to assault Raqqa, which was the Islamic State's self-declared capital until its fall this month.
The Pentagon says there are 5,200 U.S. troops in neighboring Iraq, though the number is believed to be much higher.