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US sending additional 'assets' to Syria to protect oil fields

Deployment will attempt to ensure oil fields are protected from any resurgence of Islamic State
Oil well in al Qahtaniyah, Syria (AFP)

The US is planning to send additional "military assets" to northeast Syria to increase its presence and protect oil fields from being retaken by Islamic State (IS).

"The US is committed to reinforcing our position, in coordination with our SDF partners, in northeast Syria with additional military assets," a defence official said in an email sent to Middle East Eye.

The deployment is supposed "to prevent those oil fields from falling back to into the hands of ISIS or other destabilizing actors," the official added, using another acronym for IS.

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The assets may include half of an armoured brigade combat battalion, which could possibly include as many as 30 Abrams tanks as well as personnel, a report by Newsweek said.

Last week, US President Donald Trump said that he would withdraw troops from Syria amid a Turkish offensive against the Kurdish-led Peoples Protection Units (YPG), the leading faction in the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

However, on Wednesday Trump reversed course and said that Washington would be keeping a small number of troops in Syria after a ceasefire was reached with Turkey.

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

The president then suggested on Thursday that the Kurdish population in Syria should relocate to Syria's oil region, though it was not immediately clear what Trump meant by the statement.

"Perhaps it is time for the Kurds to start heading to the Oil Region!" Trump tweeted.

Syria contains highly profitable oil fields in the north and east of the country in an area bordering Iraq.

The northeast province of Deir Ezzor contains some of the country's largest oil reserves.

While the province is majority Arab, the oil fields have been managed by Kurdish-led forces in cooperation with the US in the aftermath of IS's defeat.

The US defence secretary on Monday said that the Pentagon was considering keeping some troops stationed near undisclosed oil fields in Syria.