The US Defence Department has drawn up a plan to send hundreds of soldiers and a tank battalion to guard oil fields in eastern Syria, and is waiting for the president’s approval, which is “likely,” Fox News reported, citing an unnamed senior Pentagon official. The plan reportedly involves bringing in half of an Army armoured battalion which could include up to 30 Abrams tanks.
The oil fields in question are currently under the control of the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), according to a report by Newsweek. According to the official, the Kurds will “continue to be involved” in securing the oil extraction zones.
On Monday, the US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said that US forces in Syria that are stationed near the oil fields are “not in the present phase of withdrawal.”
"This withdrawal [of US forces] will take weeks, not days. Until that time, our forces will remain in the towns that are located near the oil fields. The purpose of those forces… a purpose of those forces, working with the SDF, is to deny access to those oil fields by [Daesh]," he said.
On Thursday, US President Trump also said in the tweet that the US will “NEVER let a reconstituted [Daesh] have those fields!”
However, the official told Newsweek that the proposed tank deployment is to have a combined mission of keeping Daesh, as well as the Syrian government, Iran and their allied militias away from the oil fields.
According to a Fox News report published Thursday, the proposed forces will be relocated to Syria from another unit already deployed in the Middle East.
Wednesday, the president’s special envoy to Syria, James Jeffrey, told a Senate panel that, despite Trump’s tweeted claims, plans to secure the oil fields have not been completed, a Fox report says. He also admitted that the US has no idea what to do with the oil once it is secured.
“What are we going to do with these oil fields? That’s a really good question and were really working hard on it. We do not have an answer on it at this time,” Jeffrey said, according to Fox.
On 13 October, Esper announced amid the Turkish ‘Operation Peace Spring’ military invasion that the US would withdraw all 1,000 service people from Syria. Earlier this week, Trump said he is considering the possibility of “keeping” the Syrian oil, adding that American businesses may be employed to do that.
"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 on 21 October.
Operation Peace Spring was halted following an agreement between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
*Daesh [ISIS, IS, ISIL] is a terror group outlawed in Russia and a number of other countries.