Fact Check: US Does NOT Occupy More Territory In Syria Than Russia Controls In Ukraine


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Fact Check: US Does NOT Occupy More Territory In Syria Than Russia Controls In Ukraine No Occupation

Does the U.S. military occupy more territory in Syria than Russia controls In Ukraine? No, that's not true: The combined territories controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Syrian Free Army (SFA), two local Kurdish and Arab militias supported by Washington, are not nearly as big as the territory the Russians control in Ukraine.

The claim appeared in video (archived here) on TikTok on April 26, 2023, under the title, "It doesn't matter what kinds of crimes you commit when the mass media is in your hands, you create the kind of reality you want in people's heads." The video's text read:

Did you know? The United States of America currently holds more territory under occupation in Syria than Russia holds under occupation in Ukraine.

This is what the post looked like on TikTok at the time of writing:

(Source: TikTok screenshot taken on Fri May 19 14:44:37 2023 UTC)

The U.S. military had at least 900 personnel and in Syria plus an undisclosed number of contractors as of March 2023, according to the Associated Press. The Pentagon asserts that U.S. forces in Syria are there to prevent ISIS from regaining a foothold in the area and to advise and assist local partners from the SDF and FSA.

The undated map on the right-hand side of the TikTok video shows how Syria was partitioned among the belligerents in Syria's civil war, generally reflecting the state of play as of May 2023, according to liveuamap.com, which tracks global conflicts. The area in yellow, which extends from Syria's northeast corner to roughly the Euphrates River, is occupied by the Kurdish-led SDF. The small bubble in bright green along Syria's southern border is under the control of the FSA, centered around the U.S. garrison at al-Tanf.

Google Earth's measuring tool reveals that the SDF-controlled area covers around 58,000 square kilometers, while the FSA's zone is about 4,250 square kilometers, making for a combined territory of approximately 62,250 square kilometers.

The undated map on the left-hand side of the video shows Ukrainian territory under Russian control. In November 2022, the New York Times reported that Russia's military occupied about 18 percent of Ukraine, while the French Le Monde news outlet put the figure at 16.55 percent at the end of 2022. As Ukraine has a total land mass of 603,550 square kilometers, the Russians controlled between 99,888 and 108,639 square kilometers of the country at the time.

In other words, the Russian-occupied area of Ukraine is at least 50 percent larger than the area under the control of U.S.-backed rebels in Syria.


International Fact-Checking Organization Meta Third-Party Fact Checker

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