US Defense Department underreports troop levels in Afghanistan, reports say

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BISHKEK (TCA) — The actual number of the US troops currently serving in Afghanistan is several thousand higher than the official estimates, Russia’s Sputnik news agency reports citing US media.

The number of US servicemen in the country is about 11-12,000, which is higher than the officially stated number of 8,400 troops, NBC News reported earlier this week citing three US defense officials.

The increase is due to rotational overlap between units, the officials said. In addition, there are troops deployed to Afghanistan on temporary duty shorter than 120 days.

The revelation comes in the wake of President Donald Trump’s new strategy on Afghanistan that stipulates an increase in the number of US troops in the country.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis said on August 22, however, that it is still undecided how many additional troops will be deployed.

The US Defense Department has been underreporting its force levels in Afghanistan, saying there are 8,400 US troops in the country when in fact some 12,000 soldiers and advisers are actually funneling in and out of the country, Matthew Hoh, a former US State Department official and now a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, told Sputnik.

Defense Secretary James Mattis and leadership in the White House “feel that they don’t have an obligation to respond in detail or accurately to the press,” Hoh, a former US State Department official who resigned from the government in 2009 in protest over the war in Afghanistan, explained to Sputnik News on August 23.

There’s a sense of “annoyance” among US defense leaders regarding press inquiries on the matter, Hoh said.

“Of course” the Pentagon will counter that keeping troop numbers confidential “is a matter of operation security,” Hoh anticipates, “but that is nonsense.”

Sergey Kwan

TCA