The Pentagon released a budget blueprint today that calls for retaining some 6,000 US troops in Iraq and Syria, even as the Islamic State (ISIS) has been all but defeated in both countries.
The troop number is included in a $15.3 billion request to support the US-led anti-IS coalition in fiscal year 2019, which starts Oct. 1. It includes $1.4 billion to train and equip US allies, including $850 million for the Iraqi army and Kurdish peshmerga, $300 million for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and $250 million for border security. The request is up more than $2 billion from the current fiscal year’s request.
Funding for US troops in Iraq and Syria has stayed flat for the past three fiscal years, even as the actual troop presence has fluctuated. The United States has an estimated 5,200 troops in Iraq, where they are engaged in training Iraqi forces, and 2,000 troops in Syria, mostly assisting operations to clear IS from the Middle Euphrates River Valley.
Despite the request to keep troop numbers stable, Pentagon spokesman Adrian Rankine-Galloway told Al-Monitor that the US troop levels in Iraq are on the “downturn” as artillery and other units depart.