TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Pentagon has continued to increase the number of troops in Taiwan, with nearly twice the number in the country in the first year of the Biden administration as the end of the Trump administration.
In November 2020, Taiwan's Naval Command confirmed media reports that a contingent of U.S. Marines had arrived at the invitation of Taiwan's military and would begin training Taiwanese troops for four weeks starting that day, marking the first public acknowledgment of U.S. Marines training in Taiwan in over 40 years.
Three days later, Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense (MND) claimed that media reports about the U.S. Marine Corps assisting Taiwan Marines in military training at Tsoying Naval Base this week were not consistent with the facts," while Pentagon Spokesperson John Supple told Taiwan News, "The reports about U.S. Marines in Taiwan are inaccurate."
However, on Oct. 7 of this year, the Wall Street Journal cited U.S. government officials as saying that over two dozen U.S. special operations soldiers and support troops are stationed in Taiwan to provide military training for ground forces. On Oct. 28, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) became the first Taiwanese president in 40 years to acknowledge that there are U.S. troops deployed in the country.
On Thursday (Nov. 18), Foreign Policy observed that the number of U.S. military personnel has continued to rise over the past several months, with the current presence standing at 39 troops, based on statistics from the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC). According to the latest DMDC report issued on Sept. 30, 2021, the U.S. troop presence in Taiwan includes two soldiers, three sailors, 29 Marines, and five airmen.
Corroborating reports in November 2020, on the presence of U.S. Marines in Taiwan, the DMDC update for Dec. 31, 2020, revealed there were 12 Marines in the country at the time. These marines were joined by one soldier, two sailors, and five airmen, for a total of 20 while Trump was still in office, demonstrating that troop numbers have nearly doubled under the Biden administration.
In addition, both reports list the same number of civilian contractors as part of the Department of Defense's (DOD's) afloat pre-positioning force (AFP) in Taiwan, including one working for the Army, one employed by the Navy, and 13 serving for DOD Fourth Estate entities for a total of 15, bringing the grand total of troops and contractors to 35 under Trump and 54 under Biden.
In the last report released during the Obama administration on Dec. 31, 2016, the U.S. had two sailors, one Marine, and seven airmen for a total troop presence of 10, meaning that Trump doubled this figure. Only six civilians were employed by DOD Fourth Estate entities, bringing the grand total of troops and contractors under Obama to 16, less than half the number under Trump, and less than a third of the figures seen in Biden's first year in office.
The Wall Street Journal report cited U.S. government officials as saying that the U.S. special operations soldiers and support troops are stationed in Taiwan to provide military training for ground forces, while Marines are working with Taiwan's naval forces in "small-boat training." The U.S. in 2019 confirmed that a contingent of Marines would protect the new American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), the de facto U.S. embassy in the country.