Biden claims the US is 'not at war,' despite combat deployments to Iraq and Syria, and counter-terror missions in Africa

President Joe Biden concludes his address to the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly on September 21, 2021 in New York City.
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  • Biden spoke before the UN General Assembly Tuesday, where he declared the US was "not at war."

  • But the so-called "War on Terror" continues elsewhere, including troop deployments to Iraq and Syria.

  • The US also continues to engage in counter-terrorism missions in Africa.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Speaking before the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, President Joe Biden concluded his speech by making a bold - and ultimately false - claim about the United States's military engagements abroad.

"I stand here today - for the first time in 20 years the United States is not at war," Biden declared as he concluded his speech. "We've turned the page."

Biden's speech was part of a wider effort to move on from the 20-year Afghanistan war, which ended with an ignominious withdrawal at the end of August. "The President will essentially drive home the message that ending the war in Afghanistan closed a chapter focused on war and opens a chapter focused on purposeful, effective, intensive American diplomacy," a senior administration official told reporters ahead of Biden's speech.

But Biden's claim ignores ongoing US military engagements abroad, including in Iraq, Syria, and Africa, underscoring the difficulty of closing the chapter in the way Biden envisions.

The New York Times reported on Monday that roughly 2,500 American troops are still in Iraq right now, largely guarding US military installations, and that many of them were mere toddlers when the US first invaded the country. Those troops have become the target of rocket fire by Iranian-backed militias, triggering retaliatory US drone strikes and thereby a continuation of military activities.

Additionally, 900 American troops are currently in Syria advising the Syrian Democratic Forces in their fight against the remnants of ISIS. Senior administration officials told POLITICO in July that there are no plans to change that in the near future, despite the lack of any formal declaration of war and the opposition of Bashar al-Assad's Syrian government.

Beyond Iraq and Syria, US forces remained stationed in a variety of foreign countries. In a June letter to Congress required under the War Powers Resolution, including approximately 2,976 United States military personnel in Jordan, 2,742 in Saudi Arabia, and 83 in Lebanon for the purposes of counterterrorism. The letter also mentions an undisclosed number of counter-terrorism forces in the Lake Chad Basin, the Sahel region, and East Africa.

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