A U.S. soldier directs his armored convoy as Syrian children watch, on a road that links to Raqqa city, northeast Syria. Photo: Hussein Malla / AP

The Pentagon confirmed on Wednesday that there are currently about 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria, rather than the 500 previously reported.

  • Eric Pahon, a Pentagon spokesman, said Secretary Mattis has "been clear about improving our public reporting" on troop counts and directed the department "to revise how it accounts for deployed personnel carrying out major operations in Iraq and Syria." Pahon said Mattis directed this revision "months ago."

Why it matters: Pahon told Axios in November that the official count was "about 503," and did not include temporary assignment troops who would be there for a few months or less. The Pentagon would not clarify whether temporary assignment troops are now being included in the count.

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Post-debate poll finds Biden strong on every major issue

Joe Biden speaks Friday about "The Biden Plan to Beat COVID-19," at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

This is one of the bigger signs of trouble for President Trump that we've seen in a poll: Of the final debate's seven topics, Joe Biden won or tied on all seven when viewers in a massive Axios-SurveyMonkey sample were asked who they trusted more to handle the issue.

Why it matters: In a time of unprecedented colliding crises for the nation, the polling considered Biden to be vastly more competent.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
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The murder hornets are here

A braver man than me holds a speciment of the Asian giant hornet. Photo: Karen Ducey/Getty Images

Entomologists in Washington state on Thursday discovered the first Asian giant hornet nest in the U.S.

Why it matters: You may know this insect species by its nom de guerre: "the murder hornet." While the threat they pose to humans has been overstated, the invading hornets could decimate local honeybee populations if they establish themselves.