President Joe Biden’s withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan has been widely criticized across the political spectrum, with a focus on the administration’s miscalculation of the speed with which the Taliban would take over and its failure to act faster to extract US personnel and thousands of Afghans who have worked to support the US over two decades of war.
Some of the criticisms lobbed at the Biden administration, however, have gotten certain facts wrong.
On Twitter, Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, contrasted the number of US troops in places like South Korea, Germany, Japan and Africa to the much smaller number previously in Afghanistan. The Senator argued that “(t)he numbers indicate we had achieved stability with relatively small troop exposure, and a good recent track record without casualties.”
Cornyn, however, incorrectly claimed that the US had 30,000 troops in Taiwan. The tweet, sent out Monday evening, was deleted Tuesday – 13 hours after being posted. “US Troops today in…Taiwan – 30,000,” Cornyn wrote.
Facts First: Cornyn’s figure on US troops in Taiwan is entirely incorrect. The US removed its military presence from Taiwan in 1979. According to the Defense Department, as of June 30 there were 30 active members of the US military in Taiwan and 15 civilians who work for the DoD.
A report from the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank, says the number of US troops in Taiwan reached its highest level in 1958 at 19,000 troops.
“America positioned thousands of troops in Hong Kong and Taiwan, abruptly starting in 1954,” the report on global US deployments from 1950 to 2003 says.
According to the report, a rapid increase of troops in Taiwan went “from 811 to 4,174 troops in 1954, peaking in 1958 at 19,000 and then stabilizing between 4,000 and 10,000 until 1977.”
The report – which is based on calculations from DoD annual reports – notes that American forces started being removed in 1973 with all troops withdrawn in 1979.
Cornyn’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
The Chinese government, which falsely denies Taiwan’s existence as a sovereign nation, quickly used the tweet to make hypothetical threats against the US through its state-run media.
The Global Times – a publication owned and operated by the Chinese Communist Party – wrote that “If the tweet is correct…China could immediately activate Anti-Secession Law to destroy and expel US troops in Taiwan and reunify Taiwan militarily.”
An editorial from the Global Times was also written with the headline “If there are US troops present on Taiwan island, China will crush them by force.” The state-run paper’s editor-in-chief tweeted that if Cornyn’s tweet were true “Chinese military forces will immediately launch a war to eliminate and expel the US soldiers.”
CNN’s Daniel Dale contributed to this report.