Under the Radar

Sound Off: China's Military Presence in Syria


At Wednesday's Republican presidential debate, candidate Ben Carson asserted that China has a military presence in Syria and his advisor late doubled down, claiming access to special intelligence "from people on the ground" that confirmed "the Chinese are there."

This, of course, comes as a surprise to anyone who's been following the news coverage of the conflict here on Military.com.

Just to be clear, here's debate moderator and Fox Business News anchor Maria Bartiromo's exact question: "Dr. Carson, you were against putting troops on the ground in Iraq and against a large military force in Afghanistan. Do you support the president's decision to now put 50 special-ops forces in Syria and leave 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan?"

And here's Carson's full answer:

Well, putting the special-ops people in there is better than not having them there, because they — that's why they're called special ops — they're actually able to guide some of the other things that we're doing there.

And what we have to recognize is that Putin is trying to really spread his influence throughout the Middle East. This is going to be his base. And we have to oppose him there in an effective way.

We also must recognize that it's a very complex place. You know, the Chinese are there, as well as the Russians, and you have all kinds of factions there.

What we've been doing so far is very ineffective, but we can't give up ground right there. But we have to look at this on a much more global scale. We're talking about global jihadists. And their desire is to destroy us and to destroy our way of life. So we have to be saying, how do we make them look like losers? Because that's the way that they're able to gather a lot of influence.

And I think in order to make them look like losers, we have to destroy their caliphate. And you look for the easiest place to do that? It would be in Iraq. And if — outside of Anbar in Iraq, there's a big energy field. Take that from them. Take all of that land from them. We could do that, I believe, fairly easily, I've learned from talking to several generals, and then you move on from there.

But you have to continue to face them, because our goal is not to contain them but to destroy them before they destroy us.

After the debate, Carson advisor Armstrong Williams claimed access to special intelligence that's not being shared with the public:  “From our own intelligence and what Dr Carson’s been told by people who are on the ground who are involved in that region of the world, it has been told to him many times over and over, that the Chinese are there.”

White House National Security Advisor Susan Rice dismissed the claim on Thursday: "I really can’t speak to what he was referring to, but unless you’re talking about having a diplomatic presence, I’m not sure what he was referring to," Rice said. "I have not seen any evidence of Chinese military involvement in Syria."

What do you think? Is there a Chinese military presence in Syria that both the Pentagon and the White House have kept secret from the American people? If Carson does have proof of a military presence, does he have an obligation to share it with the American people? Sound off!

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