Leading a video briefing from Baghdad October 31, Maj. Gen. James Jarrard, head of the US special operations task force against Daesh, said 4,000 US forces were on the ground in Syria, Stars and Stripes reports. Moments later, Jarrard corrected himself and stated there were only 503 US service members in Syria.
Jarrard "misspoke when he said that there were 4,000 troops in Iraq," US Marine Corps Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway, public affairs officer at the Office for the Secretary of Defense, confirmed to Sputnik News on Tuesday. "The current Force Management Level in Syria is 503," the marine said.
Due to counting procedures, though, "some personnel are not counted in the Force Level Management number," including contractors, service members on temporary duty, personnel assigned to "DoD combat support agencies," and military personnel "supporting the other US agencies, or in certain sensitive missions," the spokesperson said.
The total number is reported to Congress monthly, Rankine-Galloway said, but the exact explanation for how numbers are tallied is classified.
Earlier this year, a Wall Street Journal report found that the Defense Department had underreported troop levels in Afghanistan by as much as 3,500. White House and DoD leadership do not "feel that they have an obligation to respond in detail or accurately to the press," Matthew Hoh — a former Marine deployed twice to Iraq who later joined, and resigned from, the State Department in protest over the Afghan War — told Sputnik News.