28 March 2020

Trump gives Pentagon power to reset Iraq, Syria troop limits

KONFRONTASI-President Donald Trump has given the military the authority to reset a confusing system of troop limits in Iraq and Syria that critics said allowed the White House to micro-manage battlefield decisions and ultimately obscured the real number of U.S. forces.

The Pentagon, which confirmed the move on Wednesday, said no change has yet been made to U.S. troop limits. It also stressed the U.S. strategy in Iraq and Syria still was focused on backing local forces to fight Islamic State - a tactic that has averted the need for a major U.S. ground force.

But the shift on troop limits was another sign of the greater authority Trump appears comfortable giving his military commanders to make battlefield decisions and could allow for more rapid increases in troop levels in the future.

The Force Management Level system was introduced in Iraq and Syria during Barack Obama's administration as a way to exert control over the military. Obama periodically raised FML limits to allow more troops in Iraq and Syria as the campaign against Islamic State advanced.

But the numbers did not reflect the extent of the U.S. commitment on the ground since commanders found often less-than-ideal ways to work around the limits - sometimes bringing in forces temporarily or hiring more contractors.

The force management levels, which are officially at 5,262 in Iraq and 503 in Syria, are believed to be more than a couple of thousands troops shy of the actual number of U.S. forces in both countries.

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