BRUSSELS — The US will deploy a number of hundred troops to protect japanese oil fields in Syria towards the Islamic State, protection officers mentioned Friday, one other lurch in President Trump’s zigzagging army coverage within the nation.
Talking at a information convention in Brussels, Protection Secretary Mark T. Esper mentioned that the USA would “keep a lowered presence in Syria to disclaim ISIS entry to grease income.” Mr. Esper additionally mentioned that the extra steps may embrace some “mechanized forces,” which different protection officers have mentioned would come with tanks that aren’t already there.
The plan features a mixture of Particular Operations troops already in Syria and different items arriving from elsewhere within the Center East, in accordance with three protection officers who spoke on situation of anonymity as a result of they weren’t licensed to talk publicly. The officers mentioned the whole variety of American troops can be round 500.
Whereas Mr. Esper denied the deployment represents one other shift in technique, it out of the blue places the variety of American forces in Syria again on an upward trajectory — solely weeks after Mr. Trump introduced their withdrawal.
Mr. Trump’s announcement eased the way in which for Turkey’s incursion towards a Kurdish militia that had allied with the USA.
It could take a whole bunch of American troops to deploy, provide and shield armored items and tanks in Syria, two protection officers mentioned
“The mission in Syria stays what the mission in Syria started,” Mr. Esper informed reporters after a NATO protection ministers’ assembly. “It’s at all times been about defeating the ISIS coalition.” He added, “The mission stays unchanged.”
However how the USA sees out that mission has dramatically advanced since Oct. 6, when Mr. Trump had a cellphone dialog with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey after which introduced the withdrawal of American troops from northeast Syria pending a Turkish invasion.
Since then, Protection Division officers have rushed to attempt to meet up with Mr. Trump’s coverage shifts. This week the president gave the impression to be again on a path that would depart some troops in Syria.
Mr. Trump has continued to say that American forces are withdrawing. On Friday, he tweeted: “Oil is secured. Our troopers have left and are leaving Syria for different locations, then COMING HOME!” Talking to reporters on the South Garden of the White Home later within the day, he mentioned, “We simply did a fantastic factor in Syria the place we’re getting our troops out. We took over oil.”
The newest spherical of confusion started on Wednesday, as Mr. Trump heralded an settlement between Turkey and Russia to police northeast Syria. Throughout these remarks, the president singled out oil fields in Deir al-Zour Province.
“We’ve secured the oil, and, subsequently, a small variety of U.S. troops will stay within the space the place they’ve the oil,” he mentioned. “And we’re going to be defending it, and we’ll be deciding what we’re going to do with it sooner or later.”
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, informed reporters on Thursday that he was “considerably inspired” a couple of plan coming collectively that “could give us what we have to stop ISIS from coming again, Iran taking the oil, ISIS from taking the oil.”
He tweeted that he was “nicely conscious of excellent proposals concerning counter-ISIS technique in Syria coming from army leaders.”
The oil fields have been protected by American-backed Kurds together with American forces, one thing that Mr. Trump was reminded of throughout current calls with lawmakers. On Thursday, Mr. Trump posted on Twitter, “Maybe it’s time for Kurds to start out heading to the oil area.”
It was unclear if, underneath the Pentagon plan, these Kurdish forces would proceed to promote a number of the oil from the fields, whose output has been severely lowered by Syria’s eight-year warfare.
Earlier than the battle started, Syria was a medium-sized producer of oil, with about 383,000 barrels a day. However preventing has since compelled lots of its wells to close down, and executed vital harm to pipelines and electrical transmission traces that energy the pumps.
Additionally this week, the Pentagon launched an announcement saying that it had ready a number of choices for the White Home to assessment that will maintain a small contingent of American forces in japanese Syria — maybe just a few hundred — to guard oil fields. The troops would additionally proceed to battle the Islamic State.
Within the assertion, the Protection Division mentioned the USA would reinforce its presence in northeastern Syria “with further army property” to stop the Islamic State from reclaiming the area’s coveted oil fields. Protection Division officers mentioned that no choices had been made on the variety of troops or what sort of weaponry would stay, however that at the least one possibility included battle tanks.
Pentagon officers have sought to border the difficulty as defending the oil fields from being reclaimed by Islamic State forces, a concern that Gen. Joseph Votel, a former chief of United States Central Command, mentioned was largely unfounded.
“We seemed on the oil fields within the context of their strategic worth,” mentioned Common Votel, who added that they’d be “a superb negotiating leverage level” for eventual discussions between the federal government in Damascus and the Kurdish militia.
“There weren’t considerations that ISIS would get again in there and be pumping oil,” Common Votel mentioned. “The oil fields had been essential, however we didn’t go there for the oil.”
The Kurdish forces who fought alongside the American army have accused the USA of betrayal and warned that they could not have the ability to guard prisons holding hundreds of Islamic State prisoners as a way to defend themselves towards Turkey. Mr. Esper didn’t reply a query throughout the information convention about why defending oil fields, however not defending Kurdish allies or holding these prisons, warranted a deployment of further American troops.
Helene Cooper reported from Brussels, and Eric Schmitt from Washington. Clifford Krauss contributed reporting from Houston.