One of the more common refrains heard from candidate Donald Trump on the campaign trail in 2016 was his criticism of then-President Barack Obama for announcing publicly the deployment and strategy of our military units before they were even in place.
Trump stated that he would prefer to keep such information under wraps, lest the enemy know America’s plans beforehand, but it seems that some in the media and from the prior administration aren’t happy about being kept in the dark, according to PJ Media.
The Los Angeles Times recently lamented that Trump’s Pentagon has ceased disclosing specific information about the size, strength and movements of military units, specifically in Iraq and Syria as the fight against the Islamic State group ramps up. It’s a sharp break from the prior administration, which typically announced troop movements either ahead of time or concurrent with their deployment.
“The position of the Obama administration was that the American people had a right to know if servicemen and women were in harm’s way,” Ned Price, spokesman for Obama’s National Security Council, told the newspaper. “It’s truly shocking that the current administration furtively deploys troops without public debate or describing their larger strategy.”
But to the Trump administration and military officials — i.e., people who know what they’re doing — the lack of a public announcement about troop movements is less about keeping the citizenry or media in the dark than about maintaining the “element of surprise” in battles against our enemies.
“In order to maintain tactical surprise, ensure operational security and force protection, the coalition will not routinely announce or confirm information about the capabilities, force numbers, locations, or movement of forces in or out of Iraq and Syria,” said Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon.
“The coalition commander’s intent is that ISIS be first to know about any additional capabilities the coalition or our partner forces may present them on the battlefield,” Pahon added.
The Washington Examiner noted that a Marine artillery unit was recently deployed to Syria and Army paratroopers to Iraq, but there was no public announcement of the moves until after they had already arrived in the region and begun fighting.
“We want to keep (the American public) informed,” explained Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, “but we want to inform them after the fact. If we inform them before the fact, we inform the enemy.”
Under Obama’s administration, troop deployments and the general number of troops involved were announced as part of the “force management levels,” but those numbers were just a generalized base and didn’t count additional troops assigned “temporarily” or the thousands of civilian security contractors that had been deployed as well.
The Pentagon will likely still share these baseline troop numbers with the public — after the fact, of course. But at the same time, it will try to ensure that no information released publicly grants our enemies any sort of tactical advantage.
This is a policy change that will likely save lives, as letting the enemy know ahead of time when and how many of our troops will be in a particular place only serves to place them in harms way unnecessarily.
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