The Pentagon consistently has lowballed the troop count by not including those on so-called "temporary assignment" and overlaps in troop rotations.
"The Secretary has determined we must simplify our accounting methodology and improve the public's understanding of America's military commitment in Afghanistan", Chief Pentagon Spokesperson Dana White said.
As the United States was preparing to send even more troops to the war-ravaged country under President Donald Trump, Pentagon Joint Staff Director Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie revealed Wednesday that there were approximately 11,000 uniformed USA servicemen and women in Afghanistan, not the roughly 8,400 announced past year.
The officials declined to give a similar assessment for Iraq and Syriaa where there are thousands more troops than publicly acknowledged, but White said the Pentagon is reviewing its public accounting.
McKenzie said the new count was an effort to be more transparent, but he said the Defense Department would not be providing much information on the breakdown of the United States forces, so as to maintain operational security and avoid "telegraphing" U.S. intentions to the Taliban.
U.S. forces in Afghanistan have two primary missions, the majority are assigned to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation mission to train and advise Afghan security forces alongside approximately 6,000 troops from other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries.
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Mattis has supported sending an additional 3,900 troops to Afghanistan, but since the president's strategy announcement and this new accounting figure of 11,000, the defense secretary has gone back to the Joint Chiefs of Staff asking for revised troop level recommendations.
"So what it does is, it actually lets the American people know what their sons and daughters are doing in Afghanistan", McKenzie said.
"We are reviewing Iraq and Syria and the same guiding principals will govern how we roll out those numbers as well", White said.
The long-standing official number of USA troops in Afghanistan, or Force Management Level, has been 8,448, but Marine Lt. Gen.
When asked if President Trump was part of the decision to review the figure of USA troops on the ground, White would only say that the secretary and president speak frequently.
While the Pentagon said the move was a step in increasing transparency, it did not provide counts of USA troops in Iraq and Syria. "Those numbers will be forthcoming".