In our previous reporting on the leaked Pentagon documents which US authorities are scrambling to undercover the source of, we noted that one Department of Defense slide confirms that the United States and its allies have roughly 100 special forces troops on the ground in Ukraine. Many observers believe it could be much more.
But the leaked intel showed that as many as 50 British have been operating inside Ukraine at the time the March 23 briefing was put together. Among the US, France and Latvia are also a dozen special forces personnel each, according to the document.
Leaked document has a legend of US/NATO special forces in Ukraine pic.twitter.com/Po0pRJ6gMx— Michael Tracey (@mtracey) April 7, 2023
However, the documents don't identify the location of the Western special forces operatives inside Ukraine or what their mission or purpose inside the war-ravaged country is. Typically, US Green Berets train and advise local forces on the ground, as well as assist or directly conduct unconventional warfare operations.
On Wednesday White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby belatedly admitted to the accuracy of basic content the slide (namely that there are indeed US Special Forces on the ground), but he downplayed it as a "small US military presence" which is stationed at the American Embassy in Kyiv.
When pressed about the leaked documents, he said to Fox News:
"I won't talk to the specifics of numbers and that kind of thing. But to get to your exact question, there is a small U.S. military presence at the embassy in conjunction with the Defense Attachés office to help us work on accountability of the material that is going in and out of Ukraine," Kirby said, referencing the weapons and other support the U.S. has been sending to Kyiv. "So they're attached to that embassy and to that the defense attache."
Kirby, who was speaking on the sidelines of President Biden’s trip to Northern Ireland, added that those troops "are not fighting on the battlefield." In addition, Fox News is told that the U.S. forces in Kyiv also provide security services.
So he framed the SF troops as part of "oversight" for American defense aid shipped into the country.
"There has been no change to the president's mandate that there will not be American troops in Ukraine fighting in this war," Kirby said, fully aware that this seems a contradiction of prior Biden administration pledges to keep troops out of Ukraine. Certainly, everywhere there's a US embassy, there are Marine guards, but special forces are a significant step beyond this standard contingent.
Do the fresh Pentagon leaks show that the US is hiding something when it comes to 'boots on the ground'? It appears so.