What’s to Hide? Trump White House Withholding Information on US Wars

CC0 / / The Pentagon, headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense
The Pentagon, headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense - Sputnik International
Citing an almost 16-year-old authorization for the use of military force outside the borders of the United States, the Trump administration has begun to quietly deploy more US troops to Iraq and Syria -- without disclosing their number, mission or location.

As a candidate, Trump had suggested that he would seek more of an "element of surprise" when engaging in warfare, and now, with new secrecy surrounding the increasing US troop deployments to Syria and Iraq, he is making good on that promise.

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In a striking departure from the protocols engaged in by the Obama administration, no announcements were made regarding the recent addition of 300 Army paratroopers to assist the Iraqi military in their assault on Mosul, or the deployment of 400 Marines into Syria to operate artillery in support of coalition-friendly militants fighting Daesh.

According to Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon, "In order to maintain tactical surprise, ensure operational security and force protection, the coalition will not routinely announce or confirm information about the capabilities, force numbers, locations, or movement of forces in or out of Iraq and Syria," cited by the Los Angeles Times.

But many feel keeping that information secret is a mistake. Ned Price, US President Barack Obama's National Security Council spokesman, recently remarked, "The position of the Obama administration was that the American people had a right to know if servicemen and women were in harm's way."

Under the Obama administration, troop deployments were detailed after they had been carried out, but, according to the Pentagon, that policy has now changed.

Currently, troop deployments, when announced at all, are done using round numbers, with little to no specific details provided. Even when troop numbers are given, the Pentagon has acknowledged that those figures do not include the many security, logistics and other employees involved in staging a battle-ready force.

The additional troop movements to the Middle East have not been debated in Congress, leading some to wonder when, and if, the Trump administration will articulate a long-term policy for the region, according to the LA Times.

Due to the absence of any official authorization for the US troop presence in the region, the Pentagon has been relying on a 2001 mandate put in place by Congress during the Bush administration to fight al-Qaeda.

Not all legislators are comfortable with repurposing old laws to fit new wars, however.

"The world's changed a bit," said Armed Services Committee member Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC), adding, "The nature of the threat's changed too."

Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) was more blunt.

"I do not think it is right for the US military to become involved in the Syrian civil war based on the 9/11 AUMF [authorization for the use of military force]," he said, cited by the LA Times.

"I voted for that AUMF as a House member. I never imagined that vote being used to justify US ground troops in Syria in the year 2017. And I don't think anyone else who voted in favor of it did either."

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