Pentagon: About 2000 USA troops in Syria

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The Pentagon is publicly revealing that a larger number of USA troops are stationed in Syria, after helping local fighters clear most Islamic State-held areas in the war-torn country.

Manning said Wednesday that it took weeks for the Pentagon to release the new official number because military officials wanted to make sure that it was right.

Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning also said that 5,200 United States troops are serving in Iraq, consistent with the previous count.

USA forces in Syria and Iraq are "trending downward", he added, without specifying whether the 2,000 troops in Syria included the 400 Marine artillerymen that the Pentagon announced last week would soon leave the country.

The new total does not mean additional troops have been deploying to Syria.

Manning announced the new official figure for American servicemembers in Syria on Wednesday, saying Defense Secretary Jim Mattis wants to increase transparency about where and how troops are deployed.

The US military said it would also continue to support its local allies, the Syrian Democratic Forces, as they move to stabilize eastern Syria following a series of military victories over ISIS.

In his statement Tuesday, Pahon criticized Russian Federation and the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as impediments to stabilizing the situation there, saying that countering ISIS, al Qaeda and other terrorist groups is not of the "foremost priority" of Russian Federation and Syria.

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Pahon said its troop commitment in Syria would be "conditions-based", meaning that no timeline will determine if and when the USA will pull out.

The actual number of troops has been in decline for months.

Manning could not immediately say how many US troops were in Syria at its peak level. Last week, about 400 Marines in an artillery unit - 1st Battalion, 10th Marines - that was carrying out strikes against the Islamic State in the city of Raqqa returned to the United States.

The U.S. troops are also focused on training local police forces, ensuring humanitarian aid can flow into areas where it is needed and ensuring local governance where U.S. -backed forces liberated land from ISIS, he said.

Officials said the amount of forces are declining in Syria and Iraq as operations shift away from combat and more toward train and advise, explosives cleanup, reconstruction, and maintaining security and preventing ISIS from returning. "Their collective action call into question their commitment to deal a lasting defeat to ISIS and other extremist groups".

"ISIS left a minefield when they started walking out", he said.

Furthermore, Russia and Syria do not "appear to be serious about the withdrawal of Iranian-backed militias" operating in Syria, Pahon said.