President Donald Trump has delegated authority to decide troop levels in the fight against ISIS to Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
Mattis will now be allowed to set U.S. troop levels in Iraq and Syria in accordance with mission needs. Mattis’s new authority also comes after the Pentagon’s late March decision to no longer announce how many troops are headed to the ISIS fight. “It’s about capabilities not numbers,” CENTCOM spokesman Army Col. John Thomas told reporters at the time.
“Restoring FML decisions to the Secretary of Defense enables military commanders to be more agile, adaptive and efficient in supporting our partners, and enables decisions that benefit unit readiness, cohesion and lethality,” Pentagon spokesman Dana White told BuzzFeedNews Wednesday. White also told the Associated Press Mattis has not yet changed the number of troops in the region.
The decision marks a major departure from the Obama administration, which capped troop levels in several U.S. military areas of operations and frequently highlighted troop numbers as part of its drawdown strategies in Iraq and Afghanistan. Critics of the Obama administration said focus on troop levels arbitrarily constrained commanders trying to achieve larger strategic goals.