Monday 18 November 2019

Trump sends troops to protect Syrian oil fields

Mission: US military vehicles drive in a patrol past an oil well in Rumaylan, northern Syria, yesterday. Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP
Mission: US military vehicles drive in a patrol past an oil well in Rumaylan, northern Syria, yesterday. Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP

Lolita Baldor

US President Donald Trump has approved an expanded military mission to secure an expanse of oil fields across eastern Syria.

It raises questions about whether US troops can launch strikes against Syrian, Russian or other forces if they threaten the oil, US officials said.

The decision locks hundreds of US troops in Syria, despite the president's vow to get America out of the war.

Under the new plan, troops would protect a large swathe of land controlled by Syrian Kurdish fighters that stretches nearly 150km from Deir el-Zour to al-Hassakeh.

Mr Trump's decision hands commanders a victory in their push to prevent any resurgence of the Isil group, counter Iran and partner with the Kurds, who battled Isil alongside the US for several years. But it also forces Pentagon lawyers to craft orders for troops that could see them firing on Syrian or Russian fighters trying to take back oil facilities.

Democratic Senator Tim Kaine hit out at the move and said: "Risking the lives of our troops to guard oil rigs in Syria is not only reckless, it's not legally authorised. President Trump betrayed our Kurdish allies that have fought alongside American soldiers in the fight to secure a future without (Isil) and instead moved our troops to protect oil rigs."

Officials said the order does not include any mandate for the US to take Syria's oil.

Mr Trump has said multiple times that the US is "keeping the oil", but the White House and Pentagon have not explained what he means.

Defence Secretary Mark Esper said he "interprets" the remarks to mean troops should deny Isil access to the oil.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News