The United States has drawn up a plan to send troops and tanks to guard Syria’s eastern oil fields amid a withdrawal from the country’s north, Newsweek has learned.
A senior Pentagon official told Newsweek Wednesday that the United States is seeking—pending White House approval—to deploy half of an Army armored brigade combat team battalion that includes as many as 30 Abrams tanks alongside personnel to eastern Syria, where lucrative oil fields are under the control of a mostly Kurdish force involved in the U.S.-led fight against the Islamic State militant group (ISIS). The Pentagon-backed militia, called the Syrian Democratic Forces and dominated by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), will continue to be involved in securing these oil fields, the official said.
The news comes as other U.S. troops exited territories elsewhere under Syrian Democratic Forces control, where NATO ally Turkey sought to neutralize YPG influence using allied Syrian insurgents. The Turkish operation was halted, however, by a U.S. deal limiting the incursion to a roughly 20-mile “safe zone”—a move President Donald Trump credited with saving “thousands” as he fulfilled his desire to remove U.S. soldiers from the war-torn country at the same time.
The president did, however, suggest Wednesday he would keep troops in the small southwestern garrison of Al-Tanf, as well as across crucial oil fields once seized by Syrian insurgents and, later ISIS, before being claimed by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.
“We’ve secured the oil and, therefore, a small number of U.S. troops will remain in the area, where they have the oil,” Trump said at the White House. “And we’re going to be protecting it, and we’ll be deciding what we’re going to do with it in the future.”