Vastavam web: The Pentagon is considering keeping some U.S. troops near oilfields in northeastern Syria alongside Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to help deny oil to Islamic State militants, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Monday. U.S. troops are crossing into Iraq as part of a broader withdrawal from Syria ordered by President Donald Trump, a decision that allowed Turkey to launch an offensive against the SDF which for years was a U.S. ally battling Islamic State.
More than 100 vehicles crossed the border into Iraq early on Monday from the northeast tip of Syria, where Turkey agreed to pause its offensive for five days under a deal with Washington. Speaking to reporters during a trip to Afghanistan, Esper said that, while the U.S. withdrawal was under way, some troops were still with partner forces near oilfields and there had been discussions about keeping some of them there.
He said that was one option and no decision had been made “with regard to numbers or anything like that”. The Pentagon’s job was to look at different options, he added.
“We presently have troops in a couple of cities that (are)located right near that area,” Esper said. “The purpose is to deny access, specifically revenue to ISIS (Islamic State) and any other groups that may want to seek that revenue to enable their own malign activities.” Trump’s decision has been criticised in Washington and elsewhere as a betrayal of Kurdish allies who had fought for years alongside U.S. troops in a region rich in oil reserves and farmland.
The New York Times reported late on Sunday that Trump was now leaning in favour of a new military plan to keep about 200 U.S. troops in eastern Syria near the Iraq border. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.