The Pentagon will soon send tanks and additional troops to Syria in an effort to defend oil fields from ISIS.
The decision, which was confirmed by Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Friday, will involve the deployment of a combat unit with tanks to support an undisclosed number of U.S. forces to protect oil fields near the Euphrates River, the Associated Press reported.
“One of the most significant gains by the U.S. and our partners in the fight against ISIS was gaining control of oil fields in Eastern Syria — a crucial source of revenue for ISIS,” a defense official told CBS News.
Esper had told reporters on Monday from Kabul, Afghanistan that the administration had been discussing the possibility of maintaining a residual force in the region to “deny” oil field access to terror groups such as ISIS, The Wall Street Journal reported.
“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 and any other groups that may want to seek that revenue to enable their own malign activities.”
The mission to deny oil field access seems consistent with a tweet released by President Trump last week, which said, “The U.S. has secured the Oil, & the ISIS Fighters are double secured by Kurds & Turkey.”
…..this thinking years ago. Instead, it was always held together with very weak bandaids, & in an artificial manner. There is good will on both sides & a really good chance for success. The U.S. has secured the Oil, & the ISIS Fighters are double secured by Kurds & Turkey….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 18, 2019
Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has staunchly opposed the U.S. withdrawal from the beginning, has been meeting with Trump and military leaders to discuss plans to prevent the resurgence of ISIS.
“There’s a plan coming together from the Joint Chiefs, that I think may work, that may give us what we need to prevent ISIS from coming back around,” Graham said, adding that he received a briefing from Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley.
In the absence of U.S. forces, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on Tuesday to a six-day ceasefire deal and established a plan of joint patrols in Syria.
The Trump administration halted sanctions on Turkey as a result of the ceasefire, but warned that they may be implemented if Turkey resumes firing on the Kurds – a longtime ally of the U.S.
“Turkey fully understands not to fire on the Kurds as they leave what will be known as the Safe Zone for other fairly nearby areas. I don’t have to repeat that large scale Sanctions will be imposed for violations. Going well! ISIS secured by Kurds with Turkey ready as backup,” Trump tweeted Friday morning.
Turkey fully understands not to fire on the Kurds as they leave what will be known as the Safe Zone for other fairly nearby areas. I don’t have to repeat that large scale Sanctions will be imposed for violations. Going well! ISIS secured by Kurds with Turkey ready as backup…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 25, 2019
After Trump ordered the full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria, they have begun moving temporarily to Iraq before receiving new missions.