Fact Check: Does the U.S. Have No Troops in Syria, as Joe Biden Claims?

President Joe Biden claimed that the U.S. does not "have military in Syria" during an interview with ABC News broadcast on Thursday morning.

The Claim

In an interview about the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan with George Stephanopoulos, Biden argued that the threat of terrorism was greater from Syria than Afghanistan. He went on to say that the U.S. does not have a military presence in the Middle Eastern country, despite that threat.

"Al-Qaeda, ISIS, they metastasize. There's a significantly greater threat to the United States from Syria. There's a significantly greater threat from East Africa. There's significant greater threat to other places in the world than it is from the mountains of Afghanistan," Biden said in the interview.

"And we have maintained the ability to have an over-the-horizon capability to take them out.... We don't have military in Syria to make sure that we're gonna be protected," the president said.

U.S. soldiers in Syria
President Joe Biden said Thursday that the threat of terrorism was greater from Syria than Afghanistan. Above, a U.S. soldier stands near a Bradley Fighting Vehicle during a patrol near the Rumaylan oil wells in Syria's northeastern Hasakeh province on June 22. DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP via Getty Images)

The Facts

Politico and CNN reported in July that the U.S. continues to maintain about 900 troops in Syria. These forces are there to support the Syrian Democratic Forces as they continue to battle the Islamic State militant group, or ISIS. The SDF are also opposed to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria are three completely separate issues and should not be conflated," a senior Biden administration official recently told Newsweek. "On Syria, we do not anticipate any changes right now to the mission or the footprint."

Politico reported that the Green Berets—the Army's special forces unit—are among those stationed in Syria. The report quoted a Biden administration official as saying that the troops were expected to remain in the Middle Eastern nation for the foreseeable future. The U.S. first intervened in Syria in 2014 during the Obama administration, when Biden served as vice president.

U.S. troops based in eastern Syria came under attack earlier this summer, although no casualties were reported. A July 7 drone strike targeted U.S. forces based at the Al-Omar oilfield.

The troops are reportedly set to remain in Syria indefinitely, even as the Biden administration withdraws all forces from Afghanistan and works to draw down forces in Iraq. Biden has said that he aims to end "forever wars," expressing an intent to bring home U.S. forces engaged in conflicts with no clear objectives or end dates.

In 2019, former President Donald Trump moved to draw down U.S. forces in Syria, declaring victory against ISIS. However, he chose to maintain the force of several hundred troops in the country. During a January 2020 rally, Trump said this decision was made "because I kept the oil."

The Ruling

Fact Check - False

False.

FACT CHECK BY NEWSWEEK

Despite Biden's remark, the U.S. does have approximately 900 troops in Syria. All recent reports suggest that these forces will stay in the Middle Eastern nation for the foreseeable future to combat ISIS and other extremist groups there.

Newsweek reached out to the White House for comment but did not immediately receive a response.