There was some controversy recently when Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) claimed the US Army had 800 troops stationed in Niger — four of whom were killed in action in 2017 — despite Congress never having debated whether they should be there or not. It turns out Paul was right – there are 800 US troops in Niger, a country most Americans couldn’t find on a map. Is that the only place our government has quietly deployed our troops? Nope. Not even close.
- We all know there are American soldiers fighting terrorism in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. On top of that, there are 80,000 stationed in Asian allied countries like Japan, South Korea and Thailand, and 63,000 more in European NATO countries — mostly Germany, Italy and the UK. These are all long-standing deployments based on Congressional resolutions or international treaties.
- However, there are also thousands of our troops quietly working away in places that don’t get media attention. Some of them are engaged in the war on terrorism, some are training allied armies and others are doing… well, something. We don’t know and the DoD isn’t saying.
- What we do know is that there are around 165,000 active-duty US military personnel on regular deployments outside of the US and its territories. Add up Asia, Europe and the Middle East, and we get about 153,000. That leaves 12,000 doing other things.
- Some are serving as defense attachés at our embassies, and the same embassies have Marine Guards. That accounts for another few thousand.
- Of the rest, 5,665 are serving in “unspecified” locations. That sounds ominous, but it’s most likely not. In the context of military deployments, it’s not a huge number, and they’re probably scattered in small groups that some Pentagon bureaucrat simply couldn’t be bothered to list. What we do know is that 800 of them are in Niger.
- Here’s the ominous bit. On top of regular deployments, there are also no less than 37,000 US military personnel on secret deployments. That’s more troops than the average European country has — and, good or bad, the American people don’t know where they are. The Niger operation came under that heading until four of its troops were killed by terrorists. We can guess that the rest are engaged on similar missions.
- So, how many troops does the US have deployed? A lot. And a very large number of them are wherever they are without any specific Congressional authorization.