News ID: 260550
Published: 0317 GMT October 21, 2019

Pentagon chief confirms plan to keep some troops in Syria to control oilfields

Pentagon chief confirms plan to keep some troops in Syria to control oilfields

Pentagon chief Mark Esper confirmed that keeping some US troops in parts of northeastern Syria near oilfields is being discussed, but no decision has been made.

"There has been a discussion about possibly doing it (keeping some troops), there has been no decision with regard to numbers or anything like that," Esper told reporters in Afghanistan Monday, Press TV reported.

Esper claimed the purpose was to deny access, specifically revenue to Daesh and any other groups that may want to seek that revenue to enable their own malign activities.

His remarks came after the New York Times said President Donald Trump is expected to approve a new plan to keep a few hundred US troops in eastern Syria in order to help his Kurdish allies retain control of oilfields.

The paper cited a senior administration official as saying Sunday that Trump is leaning toward a new Pentagon plan to keep a contingent of nearly 200 Special Operations forces at a few bases in eastern Syria, some near the Iraqi border.

The plan would help Kurdish militants keep control of oilfields in the east and prevent Syrian government forces from reinstating control over territories occupied by foreign troops and their proxies.

The so-called Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led group of militias backed by the US, has switched sides to join Syrian government forces after Trump announced the American withdrawal.

The new plan appears to be an attempt by the US to prise the Kurds away from the central government in Damascus and retain control over Syria's oilfields.  

Trump seemed to hint at this outcome in a tweet on Sunday, saying, “We have secured the Oil.”

Three other administration and Pentagon officials confirmed to the New York Times over the weekend that top American policymakers and commanders were discussing the option.

Trump would need to approve any plan to leave forces anywhere in Syria in addition to the about 150 troops in al-Tanf garrison in the south-central part of the country near the Iraqi border.

The discussion over leaving a contingent of American troops in eastern Syria was unfolding as the bulk of the almost 1,000 American forces now in the Arab country continued to withdraw on Sunday.

News agencies said Monday US troops have crossed into Iraq from Syria through the Sahela border crossing in the northern province of Dohuk.

Video images showed armored vehicles carrying troops into Iraq, with Iraqi Kurdish sources saying that US troops had crossed into the semiautonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

Esper said on Saturday that all of the nearly 1,000 troops withdrawing from northern Syria were expected to move to western Iraq.

On Thursday, Turkey agreed in talks with US Vice President Mike Pence to a five-day pause in its incursion to allow time for the Kurdish fighters to withdraw from a "safe zone" Ankara aims to establish in Syria.

The planned "safe zone" would go 32 kilometers (20 miles) into Syria. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said it would run for some 440 kilometers from west to east along the border.



Resource: Press TV
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