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US to send 'additional military assets' to protect Syrian oil from IS

Syria's oil fields provided revenue to the Islamic State in previous years [Getty]

Date of publication: 25 October, 2019

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The US will keep 200 troops in Syria to protect oil reserves from being captured by a resurgent Islamic State group, reports say.

The US Defense Department said Thursday it planned to bolster its presence in the northeast corner of Syria to protect oil fields from being retaken by a potentially resurgent Islamic State group.

"One of the most significant gains by the US and our partners in the fight against ISIS was gaining control of oil fields in Eastern Syria - a crucial source of revenue for ISIS," a defense official said in a statement.

"The US is committed to reinforcing our position, in coordination with our SDF partners, in northeast Syria with additional military assets to prevent those oil fields from falling back to into the hands of ISIS or other destabilizing actors," the official said, on grounds of anonymity.

"We must deny ISIS this revenue stream to ensure there's no resurgence."

Two hundred soldiers will be stationed in Syria to protect the oil fields, according to the New York Times.

President Donald Trump announced last week that the US would pull all of its troops out from northern Syria, where they had served as a buffer between the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), government forces and Turkish troops.

But on Wednesday Trump said a few US troops would be staying behind to protect oil fields.

"We have secured the oil and, therefore, a small number of US troops will remain in the area where they have the oil," Trump said.

The US pull-back was seen by many as a betrayal of the Kurdish-led forces it had backed in the fight against IS, effectively giving a green light to a Turkish offensive into Syria’s border areas to drive out the Kurds.

A ceasefire agreement was reached between US and Turkey last week, on condition that the Kurds withdraw from the “safe zone” along the Syrian border, as designated by Turkey.

The move has been widely criticised for undermining the campaign to rid Syria of the extremist militant group, as faced with the Turkish offensive, the Kurdish forces may be forced to abandon their duty of guarding IS prisons.

Kurdish authorities have said 800 IS family members being held in a camp at Ain Al-Issa in northern Syria had fled due to Turkish bombing.

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