Ben Carson provides evidence that China is involved in Syria
Carson said that having US special-ops forces in Syria is better than not having them there, and then noted that Syria is a "very complex place."
"You know, the Chinese are there, as well as the Russians, and you have all kinds of factions there," Carson said.
The remark spawned criticism from foreign-policy experts and scribes, who cast doubt on Carson's assertion.
On Thursday night, Carson's campaign pushed back on that criticism. It sent a memo to Business Insider clarifying why Carson said China has a presence in Syria, where the regime of President Bashar al-Assad has been fighting rebel and jihadist groups to maintain his grip on power since the country's civil war began in 2011.
"China has had longstanding and well-documented security ties to Syria, provided various military weapons and equipment that Syria is using in the current conflict," the statement said. "Dr. Carson does not believe China is currently fighting in or deploying troops to Syria, and contrary to press reports, he has never made that assertion."
Armstrong Williams, a top Carson adviser, told Business Insider earlier this week, however, that intelligence sources and military operatives in the Middle East have told Carson that "Chinese military advisers are on the ground in Syria operating with Russia special operations personnel."
Still, the Carson campaign's statement suggests that at the debate, Carson was referring to Chinese weapons, rather than troops or advisers.
"In the decades past, China has regularly sold missiles, missile technology and missile components to Syria, despite US objections," the statement continued. "... China has also sold advanced radar to the Assad regime. Though the sale predates the current Syrian conflict, experienced military analysts believe that China likely continues to provide logistic and training support for these weapons."