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Trump gives Pentagon power to reset Iraq, Syria troop limits


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Trump gives Pentagon power to reset Iraq, Syria troop limits

By Phil Stewart

REUTERS

 

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FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a joint news conference at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 20, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - 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.

 

Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said Trump delegated authority to Defence Secretary Jim Mattis to determine force management levels for Iraq and Syria going forward.

 

"We want our reporting to Congress and to the public to be more easily and clearly understood," White said in a statement, which was reported earlier on Wednesday by BuzzFeed News.

 

"We will conduct a review to ensure that the numbers we provide to Congress and to the public accurately reflect the facts on the ground. This is about transparency."

 

Proponents within the U.S. military of changing the system also argue that bringing that decision-making authority to the Pentagon from the White House will allow more flexibility in responding to unforeseen developments on the battlefield.

 

Replacing the force management level system with something more transparent could be a tricky task, not least because of political sensitivities about U.S. forces in Iraq.

 

Influential Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr already has called on Iraq's government to order the withdrawal of U.S. and allied forces after the battle to retake the city of Mosul from Islamic State is complete.

 

The Iraqi and U.S. governments, however, have signalled the need for a continued U.S. military presence. How large that would be has yet to be determined.

 

Too much information about the comings and goings of U.S. troops, particularly if announced in advance, could give information to enemy, experts say.

 

(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Bill Trott)

 
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-- © Copyright Reuters 2017-04-27
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I fear that when Trump "gives the Pentagon more authority," it just means he's removing himself from all responsibility.  So if something goes wrong with a military operation, he can just say "Hey, go talk to the Pentagon.  I had nothing to do with this."  But if something goes right, you can count on him to take all credit. 

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2 minutes ago, williamgeorgeallen said:

hope he is not going to send too many troops to the middle east, they may need boots on the ground in north korea. there is a chance they may actually find weapons of mass destruction this time.

There are 10 active divisions in The US Army and  more in reserve plus three divisions of The US Marine Corps.so I am sure that  they can still fight on many fronts .

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2 hours ago, Redline said:

There is supposed to be civilian control of the military.  He can't lead anything.  He's a coward and a fake, pretending to be strong :mfr_closed1:

16 hours ago, webfact said:

Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said Trump delegated authority to Defence Secretary Jim Mattis to determine force management levels for Iraq and Syria going forward.

SECDEF Mattis is a civilian.  He reports to the President, who is a civilian, and Congress, who are civilians. 

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13 hours ago, williamgeorgeallen said:

hope he is not going to send too many troops to the middle east, they may need boots on the ground in north korea. there is a chance they may actually find weapons of mass destruction this time.

Boots on the ground....   ye gods.

It's 2017 man not 1917!

The usa has been there and done that with the boots on the ground and got all the t shirts.

Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq.

The only time boots on the ground has been successful has been granada and panama ...surprise surprise.

People who play too many computer war games and have rambo posters on their bedroom walls are quaint though.

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16 hours ago, 55Jay said:

 

SECDEF Mattis is a civilian.  He reports to the President, who is a civilian, and Congress, who are civilians. 

Ensuring civilian control of the military, an individual may not be appointed as Secretary of Defense within seven years after relief from active duty as a commissioned officer of a regular (i.e., non-reserve) component of an armed force.

 

True enough, Mattis is a civilian, but he was also a life long military man, and he needed special consideration in order to get the job (5 years relief, not 7).  The President is neglecting another of his positions by handing control to Mattis.  Mattis is getting senile anyway.  Congress is rarely involved these days, unless it's an all in war.  So, although you may be technically correct, reality is is standing tall over you.  Military men rarely change there allegiance or point of view.  It is hardwired after decades.  And, this military mindset is necessary for the success of the military, but always needs to be balanced.

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4 hours ago, Redline said:

Ensuring civilian control of the military, an individual may not be appointed as Secretary of Defense within seven years after relief from active duty as a commissioned officer of a regular (i.e., non-reserve) component of an armed force.

 

True enough, Mattis is a civilian, but he was also a life long military man, and he needed special consideration in order to get the job (5 years relief, not 7).  The President is neglecting another of his positions by handing control to Mattis.  Mattis is getting senile anyway.  Congress is rarely involved these days, unless it's an all in war.  So, although you may be technically correct, reality is is standing tall over you.  Military men rarely change there allegiance or point of view.  It is hardwired after decades.  And, this military mindset is necessary for the success of the military, but always needs to be balanced.

Yes, I'm aware of the appointment waiver.  I don't know if he's going senile or not.  What makes you say that?

 

Indeed Mattis' residual hardwired-ness and overall corporate knowledge, means his learning curve was negligible, and the new POTUS looks like he needs all the help he can get. 

 

Allegiance?  As far as I know, SEC Mattis' allegiance isn't in question, so yes, I hope like hell he doesn't change it.   Obama® changed SECDEFs every 2 years.  The last was a political hack hardwired to Obama's® political agenda using DoD as a crucible for his political and social legacy, rather than to the people and war fighting capability of DoD.

 

Point of view?  Dunno.  It would be a mistake to characterize military people as unthinking drones or lacking mental elasticity.  It's part of a war fighter's cultural hardwiredness to think outside the box if and when the situation demands it. 

 

Last, and to the OP's point, I am not worried about Mattis going off the reservation with the FML authority.  At the same time, he may well keep Trump™ from straying (too far) off the reservation.

 

Edited by 55Jay
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