The Obama administration sought to be deceitful in their claims concerning domestic policy and the economy, and the extent to which they deceived the American people about the U.S. standing abroad is still being discovered to this day. The Obama administration ran in 2012 on claims that Al Qaeda and terrorism in the Middle East were defeated or close to being so, but the reality does not match those claims.
During the last years of the Obama regime, the administration utilized accounting practices commonly known as ‘Force Management Levels.’ By using this concocted number, the Obama administration managed to lie about 1,500 troops deployed to Syria without fanfare (they claimed there were 503 troops, while there were really 2,000), as well as ignoring 3,000 troops more than Obama had publicly admitted to sending to Afghanistan.
The Obama administration cared more about crafting a political story about how they were winning in the Middle East than they did about being honest concerning troop deployments. After all, Obama’s victory in 2012 was based partly on claims that he was winning the war on terror, even though the only way that the war was being won was by the death of Osama Bin Laden, a killing that required Obama completely go back on his pretense of respecting Pakistani sovereignty.
If the Obama administration had admitted to having to send troops back into Afghanistan, which Obama had declared to be the ‘good’ war, or about the number of troops being sent to Syria, it would have undermined claims that the region was improving. However, Trump has no need to play numbers games with the troops to make that claim in the region.
Now, ISIS operating in Iraq and Syria has lost 97 percent of the land they held in the region, and they are being driven into Syria by the Iraqi military and police with generous backing from a U.S.-led coalition. In Syria, USSOCOM units and Syrian irregulars, along with Kurdish Peshmerga, have succeeded in winning constant victories against IS, while on the other side of the fight the Russian military and Syrian military have come together to push IS into one small region. This is the direct result of President Trump’s new approach.
Army Colonel Rob Manning (no relation to Bradley/Chelsea Manning) said that the figures were released later than expected, but that this was done in order to reflect greater accuracy in the Pentagon’s accounting for troops in the Middle East. The numbers released by the pentagon, and their greater transparency, reflect a policy shift by Mattis and Trump, which demonstrates the new administration’s commitment to honesty.
Colonel Manning went on to say that these numbers reflect approximate troop strengths as of Wednesday, December 6, while declining to make any comment about whether these numbers reflect expected troop withdrawals in the near future as the fighting in Iraq and Syria seems to be coming to a close.
The role of the military in these deployments is also different than those during the Obama years. While Obama attempted to portray the soldiers deployed as being utilized to train and oversee operations, many were still actively engaged in combat or were being used to support special operations units that the United States had in the area. Under Trump and Mattis’ leadership, troops are slowly switching to roles as advisers and trainers for local police, military, and irregular forces.
The reversal of Obama-era military policies is having a visible impact on the morale of troops and the ability of the military to achieve their objectives. Because of this, it is likely that the Trump administration does not see the need to be deceitful in how they represent the military and its deployment around the world. Couple this with the honorable and honest leadership of Jim Mattis, who is often and accurately portrayed as a modern-day warrior-poet, and the United States military is likely to be much more honest and open with the U.S. taxpayers in the future.
Though some worry about operational security, it is not likely that divulging accurate numbers concerning troop strength in foreign nations will be as detrimental to operations as Obama-era policies like announcing withdrawal dates publicly.
It seems that with new leadership, the military is improving in every possible way. Hopefully, Secretary of Defense Mattis can continue this trend.