Speed Reads

why so secretive?

The Pentagon won't say how many Americans are fighting ISIS

How many ground troops has the United States deployed against the Islamic State? No one knows, because the Pentagon won't say.

What the Department of Defense will share is the "force management level," which counts only the permanent troop deployments in Iraq and Syria. That tally comes to around 4,000 soldiers, but it's a serious undercounting of the total anti-ISIS forces the U.S. has on the ground in the Mideast, as temporary deployments are extremely common thanks to troop caps set by the White House.

In response to repeated media requests for a full count, the Pentagon has been silent, telling The Hill it simply will not "release those numbers due to the fluid nature of their presence; those numbers fluctuate on a daily basis."

Beyond temporary deployments, that variation also includes the presence of U.S. contractors — at least 1,600 of them in Iraq alone — who participate in the fight against ISIS but aren't themselves enlisted. All told, the number of Americans fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria could be north of 10,000. A likewise murky number of Americans are also on the ground in Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, and now Libya.