Let's talk about how many US troops are really in Afghanistan

The Pentagon, on Aug. 30, sharply raised its estimate of the number of US troops currently in Afghanistan, ahead of a decision on adding thousands more under President Donald Trump’s new strategy for the war-wracked country.

Pentagon Joint Staff Director Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie said a comprehensive review showed that there were approximately 11,000 uniformed US servicemen and women in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon has said previously that there were roughly 8,400 US troops in Afghanistan, under a cap set during former President Barack Obama’s administration.

Army Reserve photo by Tulara McCauley

Army Reserve photo by Tulara McCauley

Military officials have long quietly acknowledged there were far more forces in the country than the cap allowed, but commanders shuffled troops in and out, labeled many “temporary,” and used other personnel-accounting tactics to artificially keep the public count low.

“This is not a troop increase,” but rather an effort to be more transparent about the total size of the US force, Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said.

The new count, which includes temporary and covert units as well as regular forces, was made to establish the basis for an increase in troops — possibly by around 4,000 — under Trump’s revised strategy to better support Afghan troops in the fight against the Taliban.

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