The US has started building new bases in the Deir Ez-Zor governorate, specifically near the town of al-Sur, the Turkish Anadolu Agency reported citing local sources.
The exact purpose of this base remains unclear, but the province, where the US reportedly had deployed between 250 and 300 soldiers, numerous construction vehicles, armoured transports and weaponry, is known to be the most oil-rich region of Syria.
The news of the construction of the new base was preceded by US President Donald Trump announcing that the American forces, which remain in Syria, are currently tasked with "keeping the oil".
"We want to bring our soldiers home. But we did leave soldiers because we’re keeping the oil. I like oil. We’re keeping the oil", Trump said.
Partial Withdrawal Amid Turkish Offensive
Washington has announced the withdrawal of its troops in October just days prior to the start of the Turkish military operation against the US allies the Kurdish forces in Syria's north and north-east. However, days after these troops crossed into Iraq, some of them returned, reportedly settling in the Deir Ez-Zor governorate. US Defence Secretary Mark Esper elaborated on their return, saying that some American troops will stay in Syria, after all, to "defend" oil facilities from being re-captured by Daesh* stragglers.
The Russian Foreign Ministry dismissed the US bid to control Syrian oil as going against international law, citing the illegal nature of American troop presence in the country, thus making it "unacceptable". Previously, the Russian Defence Ministry accused the US of assisting in smuggling Syrian oil out of the country and presented satellite images that substantiated the accusations.
The Deir Ez-Zor governorate is partially controlled by Damascus' forces, while other parts remain under the control of Kurdish fighters backed by the US. The recent US withdrawal from Syria's north left Kurds alone in their fight against Turkey, which targeted their militia, primarily the SDF's People's Protection Units (YPG), a terrorist group. In this light, the SDF started seeking negotiations with Damascus on options for integrating with the Syrian military forces.
Ankara started its most recent military operation, called "Peace Spring", on 9 October in a bid to clear northern Syrian territory bordering Turkey of terrorist groups. Turkey believes that the region was controlled not only by groups like Daesh*, but also by affiliates of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), deemed a terrorist organization by Ankara.