Pentagon chief Mark Esper has confirmed that keeping some US troops in parts of northeastern Syria near oilfields is being discussed, but no decision has been made.
“There has been a discussion about possibly doing it (keeping some troops), there has been no decision with regard to numbers or anything like that,” Esper told reporters in Afghanistan Monday.
Esper claimed the purpose was to “deny access, specifically revenue to ISIS [Daesh] and any other groups that may want to seek that revenue to enable their own malign activities.”
His remarks came after the New York Times said President Donald Trump is expected to approve a new plan to keep a few hundred US troops in eastern Syria in order to help his Kurdish allies retain control of oil fields.
The paper cited a senior administration official as saying Sunday that Trump is leaning towards a new Pentagon plan to keep a contingent of nearly 200 Special Operations forces at a few bases in eastern Syria, some near the Iraqi border.
The plan would help Kurdish militants keep control of oil fields in the east and prevent Syrian government forces from reinstating control over territories occupied by foreign troops and their proxies.
The so-called Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led group of militias backed by the US, has switched sides to join Syrian government forces after Trump announced the American withdrawal.
The new plan appears to be an attempt by the US to prise the Kurds away from the central government in Damascus and retain control over Syria’s oil fields.