In Another Flip-Flop, Obama Raises ME Troop Level to 10,000

During the last two weeks, with just eight months remaining of his tenure, President Barack Obama’s military strategy in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf has again reversed itself. After scaling back the US troop presence in the Middle East for eight years suddenly America started putting boots back on the ground.
DEBKA Weekly’s military sources report that US forces have been deployed to four countries during the past couple of weeks:
Iraq – On Tuesday, March 17, Pentagon officials said the US has about 3,500 troops in Iraq, although that number does not include several thousand security contractors who are essentially soldiers. In other words, this brings to about 6,000 the total troops and security personnel in the country.
Syria – The extra 250 US special forces troops arriving in Syria have joined a few dozens of addmitted existing forces, according to American statistics. But DEBKA Weekly’s military and intelligence sources report that the number of troops currently based in Syria is much larger, with at least four to five companies of special forces, or between 1,250 and 1,500 troops in all.
On Tuesday, May 17, Washington expanded its involvement in the war in Syria, and for the first time since hostilities began in 2011, US F-16 fighter-bombers carried out airstrikes against Islamist rebels battling Iranian, Syrian and Hizballah forces near Aleppo.
Libya – The Pentagon’s press secretary said May 17 that small teams of American troops were on the ground in Libya to evaluate the strength of ISIS forces and to get a “better sense of the players.” Some sources said 20 to 25 American troops are in the North African country.
However, DEBKA Weekly’s military and intelligence sources report that there are actually two US task forces made up of about 1,200 to 1,500 fighters in Libya. One of them is operating near the city of Misrata, on the Mediterranean coast of northwestern Libya, 187 km east of Tripoli and 825 km west of Benghazi. The troops are reportedly engaged in joint operations with British and French special forces.
A second task force is operating near Tobruk, a northeastern port city near the border with Egypt, together with Egyptian elite troops that crossed the border.
DEBKA Weekly’s military and intelligence sources estimate that there are at least 1,500 members of US special forces units in the country.
Yemen – On May 6, the Defense Department said a small number of American advisers had been in Yemen for about two weeks to help Emirati and Yemeni forces fighting Al Qaeda near the port city of Mukalla in the southeast. Officials added that the US is carrying out aerial refueling and surveillance missions as well as providing naval and medical support. Washington also placed a flotilla of Marine ships off the coast.
These figures do not represent a small number of advisors, but about 2,500 special forces, air force and navy troops.
All in all, between 10,000 and 12,000 US soldiers have been sent to the Middle East, the Persian Gulf and North Africa in recent weeks.
DEBKA Weekly’s military sources point out that the Pentagon attached to these forces squadrons of AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, for the following reasons:
1. The Pentagon does not want to involve warplanes (except in Syria) that require large airbases or aircraft carriers that are currently not in the region.
2. The use of Apache helicopters to support the special forces is the Pentagon’s new method of operations in the war against ISIS.

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