President Donald Trump is giving the Pentagon the authority to set the number of U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria, showing that he is giving military commanders more flexibility with military operations.
The delegation of authority will allow Secretary James Mattis to send more troops into Syria to assist U.S.-backed forces as they work to retake Raqqa from the Islamic State. It will also allow Mattis to adjust the number of troops in Iraq as U.S.-backed troops attempt to take back Mosul from ISIS forces.
“At the request of Secretary of Defense Mattis, the president has delegated force management authority to the secretary,” Pentagon spokesman Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway told CNN.
Delegating authority to the Pentagon would bring about a change that had not been seen since before the Bush and Obama administrations. Under the Obama administration, troop levels were set by the White House and frequently made adjustments to it.
“This delegation of authority does not change the force management levels for Iraq and Syria,” Rankine-Galloway said, adding that the decision “does not portend a change in our mission in Iraq and Syria to defeat ISIS.”
The Pentagon is currently authorized to have 5,262 American military forces in Iraq and 503 for Syria, but there are currently closer to 1,000 in Syria and 7,000 in Iraq. Hundreds of troops were sent to Syria to provide artillery support, and others were sent to Iraq to work with units fighting in and around Mosul. Temporary assignments lasting less than 180 days are not counted as part of the official Force Management Level.
The Pentagon will review the system currently in place and create their own system in the fight against ISIS.
“Bringing the authority really back here where it’s historically been enables military commanders to be more agile, to more quickly and efficiently support partners, to have more rapid decision-making, and to keep units together,” Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis told ABC News.
“This is not new,” he added. “It simply restores authority and it’s a more effective way of managing it.”