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Pentagon Admits to Hundreds More Troops in Iraq

FILE - Iraqi soldiers train with members of the U.S. Army 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, at Camp Taji, Iraq, in this U.S. Army photo released June 2, 2015.

Hundreds more American troops are serving in Iraq than previously acknowledged by the Pentagon, U.S. officials said Wednesday.

The Pentagon had said there were 3,550 U.S. forces on the ground in Iraq to train and equip local security forces in the fight against Islamic State.

But the Defense Department has now increased that number to 3,870 troops.

Baghdad-based U.S. military spokesman Colonel Steve Warren went even further Wednesday, saying it was "fair to say" that there are hundreds more troops than even that figure, arguing that it is part of the natural rotation of incoming and outgoing forces.

The troop presence is small compared with the figure from the height of the Iraq War, when the United States had nearly 160,000 in-country troops during the "surge."

But the Iraq War officially ended at the end of 2011 and the United States pulled its combat troops from the country.

When President Barack Obama in 2014 launched airstrikes against Islamic State jihadists in Iraq and Syria, he said there would be no American boots on the ground.

Military officials have gotten around that pledge by stressing the U.S. forces are not present in a combat role.

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