The Pentagon has declined to say how many U.S. troops are actually on the ground in Iraq and Syria more than two years after the first deployments to fight the Islamic State.
The military only shares the number of full-time troops deployed, known as the “force management level” or FML.
That figure is currently about 3,825 in Iraq and 300 in Syria, but the number of troops on the ground, including temporary deployments, is much higher.
There are an additional 800 to 900 U.S. troops and defense personnel temporarily deployed to Iraq, a figure that a defense official says “tends to run around.”
It’s unclear how many temporary troops are in Syria.
A Central Command spokesman acknowledged to The Hill that some troops that temporarily deploy aren’t counted. In some cases, that’s included senior officials on “personnel visits.”
The issue has become a sticking point, with critics pressing the Pentagon for more transparency.
Some worry that officials are hiding the deepening U.S. involvement in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
The pressure for the Pentagon to release the actual troop numbers comes as the administration faces questions from both parties about the strategy to fight ISIS and with no signs Congress is close to a deal on a war authorization.
The issue has been simmering for months. Defense officials have rejected repeated requests from reporters for the actual numbers.