The number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan is closer to 3,500 which is 1000 more than the figure originally reported, according to the New York Times.
U.S., European and Afghan officials revealed to the Times that there are 1,000 more Special Operations troops in Afghanistan, a reporting error that was blamed on the fact these members were put “off the books” when the Department of Defense disclosed the initial number. The original reported number was 2,500.
The unaccounted troops include Joint Special Operations Command units, who were not listed in the official tally due to the work within the Pentagon and the CIA before their deployment to the country, a senior U.S. official told the Times. There were also discrepancies in counting temporary and transitioning units. (RELATED: Biden To Take Office Amid Lowest Troop Levels In Iraq And Afghanistan In Two Decades)
The U.S. has about 1,000 more troops in Afghanistan than it has disclosed, according to U.S., European and Afghan officials. The undercount complicates President Biden’s decision on carrying out a complete withdrawal by May 1. https://t.co/Tpj8K3xRem
— The New York Times (@nytimes) March 14, 2021
The under-reporting of troops in Afghanistan has happened in the past. In 2017, a report from the Wall Street Journal revealed the Pentagon failed to disclose 3,500 of the more than 12,000 troops in the country at the time.
Former President Trump signed the peace deal with the Taliban last February, a move slated to end the nearly 20-year-long Afghan conflict, the longest war in U.S. history. The deal called for the withdrawal of all troops within a 14-month period. In January, Trump followed through with his November promise to reduce the 4,500 to 2,500, which was carried out in February. The total number of troops has reduced from 12,000 to 3,500.
With the May 1 deadline approaching, this larger figure complicates the decision to follow through with Trump’s peace deal for the Biden administration. In the past, while serving as vice president, Biden expressed opposition to former President Obama’s decision to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan.
Democratic Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed told reporters in February he believes there will be some extension for the removal of troops due to the fact the military still needs more time to prepare for the move and the guarantee that there will not be violence from Afghanistan without U.S. presence in the country remains to be seen.
There are also over 7,000 NATO and allied troops in Afghanistan who rely on the U.S. for operational support. From 2003-2014, NATO led the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to help with the security effort in the country. A smaller non-combat group was launched in 2015 that remains in the country, providing further assistance to the Afghan security forces and institutions.