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After making a similar statement in 2019, Biden’s presidential campaign clarified that he had visited the countries a combined 21 times.
Biden hasn’t traveled to either country as president or in the last few years, according to his public schedule and news archives.
In his first State of the Union address, President Joe Biden focused on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, inflation and the coronavirus pandemic.
At one point he turned to the U.S. military, and started to speak about toxic burn pits at bases in Iraq and Afghanistan that may have caused serious illnesses among troops — possibly including his late son Beau Biden, who served in the military and died from brain cancer in 2015.
But as he spoke, he made a questionable claim about the number of times he had visited the two countries.
"Our troops in Iraq have faced — and Afghanistan — have faced many dangers. One being stationed at bases, breathing in toxic smoke from burn pits," Biden said during the March 1 joint session of Congress. "Many of you have been there. I’ve been in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan over 40 times. These burn pits that incinerate waste — the wastes of war, medical and hazardous material, jet fuel, and so much more."
PolitiFact readers reached out and inquired whether the statement was accurate. It’s not, and it was not included in his prepared remarks.
Biden has traveled to Afghanistan and Iraq many times, including to visit his son who was serving in Iraq. But his statement nearly doubled the number of trips. And it’s not the first time Biden has embellished the number of times he’s traveled to the two countries.
In 2019, while on the campaign trail, Biden told a dramatic — but false — story about a general asking him to travel to Afghanistan to recognize the heroism of a Navy captain. At one point while relaying the tale, Biden said he had been to Iraq and Afghanistan "over 30 times."
But his campaign later clarified, and told the Washington Post that the correct number was actually 21. Some of these trips occurred when Biden was serving as a U.S. senator from 1973 to 2009.
There have been no news reports or press releases about Biden visiting either country for the remainder of 2019 or any time in 2020.
PolitiFact reached out to the White House for comment but did not hear back. Just after Biden made this statement, he was interrupted by Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., who yelled out a reference to 13 service members who died while the U.S. was evacuating Afghanistan. Boebert was shushed by her colleagues.
As president, Biden visited Europe in a trip that included meetings with NATO leaders and Russian President Vladimir Putin. He traveled to Italy and the United Kingdom in the fall of 2021 for the G20 Leaders’ Summit and the U.N.’s convention on climate change.
According to searches of Nexis news archives, the last time Biden visited Iraq was in 2016 to try to quell a political rebellion that threatened to undercut the Obama administration's counterterrorism efforts. It was his first visit to the country in five years.
The last time we found that he traveled to Afghanistan was in 2011 for meetings meant to gauge the progress toward a drawdown of U.S. forces.
Biden said he has visited Iraq and Afghanistan "over 40 times."
This isn’t accurate. There is no evidence that Biden has been to either country since being president. The last time he was in Iraq appears to be in 2016. For Afghanistan, it was in 2011.
The latest estimate of his travels to the two countries come from his presidential campaign, which said in 2019 that he had visited both a combined 21 times.
Biden’s statement is off by about half. We rate it False.
PolitiFact researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.
PolitiFact, Fact-checking Joe Biden's 2022 State of the Union address, March 1, 2022
WhiteHouse.gov, Remarks by President Biden in State of the Union Address, March 1, 2022
Nexis news archive database search, March 3, 2022
Washington Post, As he campaigns for president, Joe Biden tells a moving but false war story, Aug. 29, 2019
Factba.se, Joe Biden - President's Public Schedule, Accessed March 3, 2022
Factba.se, Daily White House - Schedule, Accessed March 3, 2022
Washington Post, Photos: Biden visits Europe in first presidential trip overseas, June 14, 2021
WhiteHouse.gov, Statement by Press Secretary Jen Psaki on the President’s Travel to Italy, Vatican City, and the United Kingdom, Oct. 14, 2021
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