Since President Trump came into office, U.S. troop numbers have been edging up in the three countries where the U.S. is most deeply involved in fighting — Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
U.S. forces totaled just over 18,000 in these three countries at the end of last December, just before President Obama completed his term, according to the Pentagon's Defense Manpower Data Center.
The combined figure was about 26,000 as of the end of September, the most recent data available from the Pentagon.
Neither President Trump nor the military likes to talk about troop numbers. A Pentagon spokesman, Army Col. Rob Manning, said multiple factors can be influence the figures, such as troop rotations, the changing nature of military missions and the political sensitivities of the host country.
He told reporters not to place too much stock in the quarterly figures put out by the Defense Manpower Data Center.