The Pentagon has been concealing the true number of US troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, raising doubts about sincerity towards the governments of these countries and concerns regarding democratic accountability to the US public.
Jason Dempsey, an Afghanistan war veteran who is now a researcher at the Center for a New American Security, believes the Pentagon can deal with operational security while still maintaining core American democratic values expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.
“We can deal with operational security, while still maintaining democratic accountability about how we fight wars," said Dempsey.
“Accurate troop level numbers are something the public absolutely deserves to know," according to Dempsey as quoted in Politico website on Saturday.
Nevertheless, the Pentagon and US President Donald Trump seem to share the idea that troop numbers' transparency is not required.
Trump in a nationally televised speech at Fort Myer on Monday unveiled his new strategy in Afghanistan.
He said the US military presence would continue in the conflict-stricken country but refrained to elaborate on the scope, suggesting that the lack of overall transparency on troop levels will continue.
The Pentagon , for its part, under the so-called Force Management Level policy does not count troops who are in the war zones for fewer than 120 days in the public numbers.
US military leaders defend the policy saying accurate disclosure of troops numbers “did not make sense”.
“It just didn’t make sense to increase the Force Management Level when you were just bringing in some engineers for a little while to build a facility and then take them out," said Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, who was the US commander in Iraq and Syria from 2015-16, and is currently deputy commanding general of the US Army Training and Doctrine Command.
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has announced that he will release the true numbers publicly.
“I had to change the accounting process because we couldn’t figure out how many troops we had” in war zones, Mattis told reporters last week.
Meanwhile, media reports from leaked sources say the US already has as many as 12,000 troops in Afghanistan, significantly higher than its 8,400-person cap.
If President Donald Trump deploys 3,900 additional troops, as reports say, the total will be nearly double the current public number.
In Iraq, where the government faces political opposition to a large US troops presence in the country, the 5,200 troop figure the Pentagon uses in public is a fictitious number.
In fact, according to recent reports, more than 7,000 US troops are in Iraq.