Pentagon Responds to Allegedly Leaked Slide: U.S. Special Operations Forces in Ukraine Have ‘Mission Critical Functions’

Soldiers in the Ukrainian Army withdraw 15, 100 mm caliber artillery guns in Soledar, east
Scott Peterson/Getty Images

The Pentagon had 14 special operations forces (SOF) inside Ukraine as recently as three weeks ago, according to recent documents posted online that appear to be leaked intelligence from the Department of Defense.

A U.S. military slide dated March 23, that appears to be a daily update of the U.S. force posture in the region, featured a bullet list of countries who purportedly had special operations forces in Ukraine.

The Associated Press

A Ukrainian serviceman of 12 aviation brigade sits inside an Mi-8 combat helicopter before flight during a combat mission in Kharkiv region, Ukraine, Sunday, April 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Alex Babenko)

It stated that the U.S. had 14 SOF in Ukraine, Great Britain had 50, France had 15, Latvia had 17, and the Netherlands had one, for a total of 97.

In addition, the slide said there were a total of 100 U.S. personnel in Ukraine — 71 with the State Department, and 29 with the Department of Defense, including the Defense Attache Office, the Office of Defense Cooperation (ODC), the 14 U.S. SOF, and Marines at the U.S. Embassy who provide security.

Ukrainian soldiers of Da Vinci Wolves Battalion firing artillery in the direction of Bakhmut, April 3, 2023. (Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The existence of U.S. special operations forces specifically had not been disclosed until the recent purported leak of Pentagon documents. It is not clear what the U.S. SOF are doing in Ukraine.

President Joe Biden has repeatedly promised it would not have troops directly involved with the war in Ukraine.

He said on February 24, “Our forces are not and will not be engaged in the conflict.”

President Joe Biden, left, meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at Mariinsky Palace during an unannounced visit in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, Feb. 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, Pool)

President Joe Biden, left, meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at Mariinsky Palace during an unannounced visit in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, Feb. 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The U.S. evacuated all U.S. forces in Ukraine in advance of Russia’s February 22, 2022, invasion of Ukraine. However, in October, the DOD admitted there were a small number of U.S. troops in Ukraine to keep track of U.S. weapons shipments there by conducting site visits in Ukraine.

In December, NBC News reported that the DOD was considering sending additional U.S. troops to Ukraine to bolster that effort. “The Pentagon has a couple of dozen U.S. troops in Ukraine, including a very small number already assigned to making sure weapons reach their intended recipients,” the outlet reported.

But, the report also suggested the forces could be advising. “Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and other military leaders want to enhance the accountability mission and make sure there are experts in country to help Ukraine use critical weapons systems, including air defense and counter-drone systems,” it said.

At the time, Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder told the outlet:

The U.S. remains steadfast in its support of Ukraine and its ability to defend against Russia’s unprovoked aggression, and the U.S. presence at Embassy Kyiv reflects that enduring commitment. As soon as security conditions permitted in late May, DoD reopened its Defense Attaché Office (DAO) and Office of Defense Cooperation (ODC) at the Embassy in Kyiv to perform mission critical functions. DoD coordinates its personnel levels in connection with the State Department and interagency, as part of the overall Embassy footprint. We will continue to review our presence in-country, as security conditions evolve. Though the ODC is embedded within the U.S. Embassy, it is staffed exclusively by DoD personnel. For operational security and force protection reasons, we won’t discuss specific numbers of personnel.

The Associated Press

Pentagon spokesman Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

The report noted that the U.S. is trying to keep the number of personnel in Ukraine low so as not to spark criticism from Republicans and others that the Biden administration is “pushing the limits of a pledge not to send U.S. troops to Ukraine.”

The report quoted a former U.S. official calling it “classic mission creep.” But a U.S. defense official told the outlet, “That’s ridiculous.” The official characterized the U.S. presence as “extremely limited” with a “very specific” mission. “This is about supporting the Ukrainians, not fighting the Russians,” the official said.

The Department of Defense told Breitbart News in a statement Thursday that it would not discuss specific details regarding U.S. personnel “for operational security and force protection reasons.”

KIEV, UKRAINE - OCTOBER 01: A security guard stands outside the embassy of the United States of America on October 01, 2019 in Kiev, Ukraine. Ukraine has found itself at the core of a political storm in U.S. politics since the release of a whistleblower's complaint suggesting U.S. President Donald Trump, at the expense of U.S. foreign policy, pressured Ukraine to investigate Trump's rival, Joe Biden, and Biden's son, Hunter. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

A security guard stands outside the embassy of the United States of America on October 01, 2019 in Kiev, Ukraine.(Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

However, the DOD indicated the SOF were in Ukraine for “mission critical functions” at the embassy.

As previously shared, however, DoD maintains a limited footprint inside of Ukraine for mission critical functions at the Embassy, including providing embassy security support at the request of the U.S Department of State, in coordination with the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS). This is not unique to Ukraine; DoD personnel provide Embassy security services all over the world.

While the U.S. had not previously discussed SOF in Ukraine, a top British military commander admitted in December 2022 that Royal Marine Commandos have been deployed there, describing secret missions they performed in addition to protecting the British embassy as “discreet operations in a hugely sensitive environment and with a high level of political and military risk.”

WATCH: Top House Intel. Dem: Biden Admin. Is Too Casual on Alleged Classified Doc Leak, I Don’t Know We Can Protect Secrets of Allies:

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