After Escalation, White House Says US Troops in Syria are There to Stay

NSC spokesman John Kirby says Biden is committed to staying in Syria despite the risks

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Sunday that President Biden is committed to staying in Syria following a series of attacks on US bases and US airstrikes in the country.

“Here’s what’s not going to change … the mission and ISIS is not going to change. We have under 1,000 troops in Syria that are going after that network, which is, while greatly diminished, still viable and still critical. So we’re going to stay at that task,” Kirby said on CBS News’s Face the Nation.

When asked if President Biden was committed to keeping US troops in Syria, Kirby replied, “That’s right. Absolutely.”

While Kirby says the US mission in Syria is about fighting ISIS, the presence is part of the US effort against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian government opposes the occupation of the eastern portion of Syria, which allows the US to control most of Syria’s oil resources. On top of the occupation, the US maintains crippling economic sanctions on Syria.

The US occupation always risks sparking a wider war, as demonstrated by the recent airstrikes. The escalation started on Thursday when a US base in eastern Syria came under a drone attack that killed a US contractor and wounded five US troops.

The Pentagon claimed the drone was of “Iranian origin” but offered no evidence to back up the assertion. President Biden responded by ordering airstrikes that hit targets in Syria early Friday against facilities the Pentagon said were “used by groups affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps,” likely referring to the Shia militias that operate in Syria.

According to the pro-opposition UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), the US airstrikes killed 19 fighters, including three Syrian troops, 11 Syrian fighters in pro-government militias, and five non-Syrian fighters who were aligned with the government.

The SOHR numbers aren’t confirmed, and both Iran and Syria issued statements accusing the US of lying about who they targeted. Tehran claimed the strikes hit civilian targets.

The US airstrikes provoked more attacks on multiple US bases in Syria on Friday night that wounded at least one US soldier.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.