Part of the US troops, who returned from Iraq to Syria after a brief "withdrawal" announced by Washington, have been deployed to the oil-rich governorate of Al-Hasakah, near the town of Tell Beydar, local sources say. This group returned to the Arab Republic as part of a larger military convoy that went through Syrian-Iraqi Semalka border crossing last night.
According to the sources, the US will soon be sending another group of American troops to the same region, although exact date remains unclear.
The Russian Defence Ministry earlier presented several satellite photos of Syrian oil fields, controlled by the US forces both prior to and after the defeat of Daesh*. According to them, the oil was "actively extracted" and then smuggled out of the country for further reprocessing. Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov slammed it as "international state banditism".
The spokesman further elaborated that the operation to smuggle Syrian oil had been conducted between "leading American corporations" and private military contractors protected by US troops. He estimated monthly revenues from the operation to be over $30 million, suggesting that the Pentagon and the CIA would be "ready to 'guard' Syrian oil wells from 'hidden Daesh cells' indefinitely" for such a stake.
During a meeting in the Oval Office on 21 October, weeks after announcing the withdrawal of American troops from Syria's north, US President Donald Trump stated that he was considering keeping some US soldiers on the ground to "guard" Syrian oil fields from being seized by remnants of Daesh*. He, however, also suggested doing a bit more than just guarding them.
"I always said if you're going in, keep the oil […] maybe get one of our big oil companies in to do it properly", Trump said.
Washington announced its intention to withdraw American troops from northern Syria days before the start of a Turkish operation in the same region, targeting the US’s allies in the fight against Daesh* - the Kurdish SDF. US Defence Secretary Esper later clarified that the majority of the forces withdrawn would be redeployed to Iraq.
Iraqi military officials subsequently stated that American troops were authorised to enter Iraq, but not to stay, and would be transported out of the country later.
*Daesh (also known as ISIS/ISIL/IS) is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia