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Pentagon Can't — or Won't — Say How Many Troops Are at War

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The Pentagon just can’t or won’t say how many troops are deployed to Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

The long-running controversy over how many and where troops are in harm’s way reached the point Monday where Pentagon officials were disputing their own required quarterly report on deployments worldwide from the Defense Manpower Data Center.

“Those numbers are not meant to represent an accurate accounting,” Army Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, said of the DMDC’s report. “They shouldn’t be relied upon.”

He said that the DMDC’s quarterly reports were “routinely over and under” the actual count of troops on the ground, and only gave a “snapshot” in time. There was a general reluctance to give out actual numbers for fear of “telegraphing or silhouetting to the enemy” U.S. troop strength, Manning said.

The DMDC numbers, first reported by Military Times, gave evidence of what has been widely known and occasionally confirmed by Pentagon officials for years — that the official counts, or Force Management Levels (FMLs), on the numbers of troops in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan are well below the actual numbers of service members in each country.

In August, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis acknowledged the discrepancies and pledged to give a fuller accounting for Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

According to the DMDC’s quarterly report, there were a total of 25,910 U.S. troops in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan — more than 11,000 above the official number given by the Pentagon for the three countries of 14,765.

In Syria, there were 1,720 U.S. troops, more than three times the FML level the Pentagon repeated on Monday of 503.

The same report showed there were 8,992 American troops in Iraq, almost 3,500 more than the official Defense Department tally of 5,262.

In Afghanistan, DMDC said there were 15,298 troops, as opposed to the 14,000 figure given earlier this month by Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, director of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff.

In addition to the 15,298 U.S. troops, there were also 1,202 DoD civilians in Afghanistan, for a total reported U.S. footprint in Afghanistan of 16,500.

The troop cap in Afghanistan under the Obama administration had been 8,500 but the Pentagon later acknowledged there were about 11,000 on the ground.

Two weeks ago, McKenzie said the 3,000 additional troops authorized for deployment in August by President Donald Trump had arrived in Afghanistan, boosting the troop strength to 14,000.

McKenzie and Dana White, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman, have pledged to give a more accurate account of the numbers of troops in Iraq and Syria.

— Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

© Copyright 2017 Military.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Cuomo's 'open letter' to Trump after Texas school shooting slammed on Twitter: 'YOU do something'

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Hours after a gunman opened fire in a Texas high school classroom, killing at least 10 people, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo took to Twitter demanding President Trump “DO SOMETHING.” After listing seven mass shootings in a tweet to Trump, Cuomo, a Democrat, then drafted a letter.

The May 18 “open letter” calls on Trump, the House of Representatives and the Senate to take action.

“When is enough enough?” Cuomo asks. “How many more innocent people have to die before you act?”

Cuomo, who boasted about his “F” rating from the National Rifle Association (NRA), told the polticians to put their country first.

“You were elected to do something – do something. Your first responsibility is to the people of the United States, not the NRA – do something,” Cuomo repeated. “My heart breaks for the families who have to grieve from this needless violence – DO SOMETHING.”

AFTER TEXAS SCHOOL SHOOTING LEAVES SEVERAL DEAD, HUNT FOR EXPLOSIVES CONTINUES

The letter, signed by Cuomo — who dubbed himself the “father of Cara, Mariah and Michaela, taxpayer, Governor of New York, NRA ‘F’ Rated Elected Official” — garnered more than 665 retweets by Friday evening and received dozens of fiery replies.

Several Twitter users lectured Cuomo for allegedly not offering any solutions himself, while others told him he should instead focus on New York’s issues.

“You’re the elected official. What’s your plan? Don’t just pass the buck.”

– Twitter user

“This isn’t about you, it’s like you can’t help yourself. You were elected to help NYS, so NYers should be your priority. Sincerely, an ACTUAL taxpayer of NYS, commuter (when the trains work) and NRA member,” one Twitter user replied.

“Why don’t YOU do something in the State of NY that is so terrific that the rest of the States in the USA will follow? IT IS TIME FOR YOU TO LEAD!” another added.

“You’re the elected official. What’s your plan? Don’t just pass the buck,” one user wrote.

“Oh, like NYC is a crimeless utopia. Governor, DO SOMETHING,” another demanded.

Some people suggested Cuomo was “politicizing” the tragedy in order to boost his own popularity among voters — with at least one user calling it his “2020 audition.”

TEXAS SCHOOL SHOOTING SPARKS REACTION FROM TRUMP, OTHER LAWMAKERS: ‘THIS HAS TO STOP’

“Nice to politicize a tragedy. So while we’re going there, who were the presidents during all of these shootings?” one person asked.

“Really? You’re using this horrible massacre for your campaign? NRA F rated could have been left out of this tweet,” another added.

“Andy, STOP making it so obvious that you are running for Prez in 2020 with your ‘new found voice’ on Twitter!” a Twitter user added.

“Nice to politicize a tragedy. So while we’re going there, who were the presidents during all of these shootings?”

– Twitter user

In particular, many users took issue with Cuomo labeling himself a “taxpayer.”

“You are a Taxpayer rated F official as well,” one user commented.

“Taxpayer? Tax Spender Extraordinaire is more like it,” another jabbed.

However, a handful of people did offer Cuomo some support, echoing his comments to Trump and other lawmakers.

SANTA FE, TEXAS HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT RECOUNTS HORRIFIC SHOOTING

New York Democratic Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda wrote, “Couldn’t agree more Governor.”

“I agree, Congress is failing our children,” one man responded.

Trump spoke with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Friday afternoon to “offer his condolences for those affected by the shooting at Santa Fe High School,” an official told Fox News. He later addressed the nation, asking government officials to work together to prevent similar tragedies.

“My administration is determined to do everything in our power to protect our students, secure our schools and to keep weapons out of the hands of those who pose a threat to themselves and to others,” Trump said. “Everyone must work together at every level of government to keep our children safe.”

Trump announced in late March that the administration would ban bump stocks and “all devices” that turn otherwise legal weapons into “illegal machine guns,” keeping a promise made amid a bipartisan gun control debate just weeks after 17 students were gunned down at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report.

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Melania Trump to unveil platform focused on 'well-being of children' from White House

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First lady Melania Trump will announce her formal agenda from the White House Monday afternoon.

Stephanie Grisham, her spokeswoman, said Trump will not be “choosing just one topic as she’s done in the past.” Trump’s focus will be on the “well-being of children,” Grisham said.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH MELANIA TRUMP ANNOUNCE HER OFFICIAL AGENDA

The first lady has a 12-year-old son, Barron, and has expressed her interest in children during numerous visits to hospitals and schools. She recently turned the Blue Room at the White House into a mock classroom and invited middle school students to share their hopes and dreams with her.

Trump has promised to tackle cyberbullying as first lady, hosting major online and social media companies at the White House earlier this year. She’s also brought that message directly to classrooms around the country.

And last year, she addressed the United Nations and encouraged world leaders to “step up” to help children in need. She said countries with poverty, trafficking, disease illiteracy and drug issues “hit first and hardest” the children.

“No child should ever feel hungry, stalked frightened, terrorized, bullied, isolated or afraid, with nowhere to turn,” the first lady said. “We need to step up, come together and ensure that our children’s future is bright.”

The event is scheduled for 3 p.m. in the Rose Garden.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter @K_Schallhorn.

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Strippers, strip club owners lobbying San Diego officials to lower permit fees

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Strippers and strip club owners in San Diego are calling on city officials to lower their annual permit fees, claiming they are unjustified and much higher than in other cities.

The San Diego Hospitality and Entertainment Coalition, a group representing the industry, wants to create a task force that would examine the risks of imposing these high fees that can push women toward unregulated websites where they are more vulnerable to prostitution and human trafficking, The San Diego Union-Tribunereported.

The campaigners say that the permit fees – set to rise to $388 for a stripper and $5,830 for a club operator this summer – could also lead to lower overall revenue for the city as more businesses and women could decide to exit the regulated industry.

“No other city charges fees this high, or even at all. Ten years ago the fees were half as much, and it was a lot easier to make ends meet.”

– Debra Seavello, a stripper at Expose in Kearny Mesa.

Police officials, however, say the fees are necessary. They say they need to allocate the personnel to process the permits, respond to incidents in the clubs and prevent prostitution and other criminal activity.

Much of the police work also occurs during late-night hours and that takes police resources away from other enforcement work, officials said at an earlier meeting.

But strippers and strip club owners said the fees are already higher than justified by how much police actually spends time enforcing laws involving strip clubs.

“No other city charges fees this high, or even at all,” Debra Seavello, a stripper at Expose in Kearny Mesa, told a city committee, according to the Union-Tribune. “Ten years ago the fees were half as much, and it was a lot easier to make ends meet.”

“That’s dangerous for them. At least in the clubs we keep them safe and regulated.”

– Jennifer Sales, a former stripper.

For comparison, a strip club operator in Los Angeles pays $528 for a permit compared to nearly $6,000 in San Diego.

“I know there might be a certain stigma for dancers, however these are mothers who are trying to raise children and do the right thing by working rather than being a burden to the state,” Seavello said. “We can’t afford these increases year after year.”

Jennifer Sales, a former stripper who now works as a manager at the strip club, claims the fees are encouraging vulnerable women to use Craig’s List or web cams for work instead. “That’s dangerous for them,” she said, according to the paper. “At least in the clubs we keep them safe and regulated.”

Dino Palmiotto, owner of Expose and president of the industry group, accused the city of violating state law by charging more than what it should actually cost for police to monitor the strip clubs and strippers.

He said the city could be sued if they don’t form a task force to address their concerns.

Lukas Mikelionis is a reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @LukasMikelionis.

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