Under the direction of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the Pentagon will no longer intentionally underreport the number of U.S. troops deployed in war zones.
The change is meant to provide greater transparency and improve public understanding of the nature of US involvement in overseas wars, Dana White, chief Pentagon spokesperson, told reporters at the Pentagon Wednesday.
As a first step, the Pentagon revealed the actual approximate number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan is 11,000, not the previously reported number of 8,400.
"The secretary has determined we must simplify our accounting methodology and improve the public's understanding of America's military commitment in Afghanistan," White said.
Approximate, but more accurate numbers will also be released soon for American forces on the ground in Iraq and Syria.
"This was something that [Mattis] took upon himself when he was looking at the accounting practices. He wanted greater managerial integrity and he has the concerns of commanders who didn't have as much flexibility to deploy troops and then this is also about the American people," White said. "We're the Department of Defense. We owe the American people as much transparency as possible while still protecting sensitive information."
Under President Barack Obama, the military was forced to work under artificial troop caps, which meant that units were sometimes deployed without the full complement of combat support.
"While this procedure supported operational security, it also reduced unit readiness and transparency," White said. "Often commanders were compelled to reduce the size of deploying units in order to meet theater force management levels, and limit the time units could remain in operational theaters. This way of doing business is over."
The change was applauded on Capitol Hill by Rep. Mac Thornberry, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
"I am pleased to see that as we prepare to execute a new strategy in Afghanistan, President Trump and Secretary Mattis have chosen to put the facts on the table," Thornberry said in statement. "The Obama Administration did not shoot straight on how many people they sent to Afghanistan, which added cost to the mission and made it harder to succeed."