Despite Turkey’s long-time concerns and joint steps taken together with the U.S., the latter still continues to ally itself with the PKK’s offshoot the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria. The latest proof of this alliance is apparent in the U.S. plans to deploy troops to secure oilfields in Deir el-Zour. After announcing the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria twice, President Donald Trump has added more complexity to the American military's mission in the region by claiming a right to Syria's oil. Extending the mission to secure eastern Syria's oilfields happens to fit neatly in with the Pentagon's view, supported by some Trump allies in Congress, that a full withdrawal now could hasten a revival of Daesh, even after the terrorists lost their leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a U.S. raid. Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s recent statements pointed out a different dimension of the U.S. decision to keep its troops to protect the oil in the region. Esper said that the military's oil field mission will also provide the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), dominated by the YPG, a source of income. Esper added that securing the Deir el-Zour oilfields was a legitimate move to block a major source of income for Daesh. A few years ago, the terror group was exploiting the oil to finance its so-called "caliphate," carving out large swaths of Syria and Iraq with an army that is now extinguished. Since the U.S. military carried out an air campaign destroying tanker trucks used by Daesh to transport oil for black market sales and damaged many oil facilities, the U.S.-backed YPG terrorists have controlled the oil, supported by a small contingent of U.S. troops.
A quiet arrangement has existed between the terrorists and the Syrian regime, whereby Damascus buys the surplus through middlemen in a smuggling operation that has continued despite political differences. The oil was expected to be a bargaining chip for YPG terrorists to negotiate a deal with the Syrian regime, which unsuccessfully tried to reach the oil fields to retake them from Daesh. The military acknowledged on Thursday that an army unit with armored vehicles, including Bradley infantry carriers, is now operating in the Deir el-Zour oil region. It did not say how many additional soldiers are being deployed there, but officials have said the eventual force there will likely be about 500, including roughly 200 who had been there even before Trump was persuaded to revise his plan for a near-total withdrawal, which he announced on Oct. 14. Trump has offered varying descriptions of the military's role in eastern Syria. On Oct. 25 he said, "We've secured the oil, and, therefore, a small number of U.S. troops will remain in the area where they have the oil." Three days later, he went further, declaring the oil to be America's. "We're keeping the oil – remember that," he said in Chicago. "I've always said: 'Keep the oil.' We want to keep the oil. 45 million dollars a month? Keep the oil." On Aug. 7, Turkish and U.S. military officials agreed to set up a safe zone and develop a peace corridor running from the Euphrates River to the Iraqi border to facilitate the return of displaced Syrians currently living in Turkey to their home country and provide security for Turkish border settlements and military outposts. They also agreed to establish a joint operations center. The agreement envisages the setting up of measures necessary to address Turkey's security concerns. Although the first phase of establishing a safe zone in northern Syria was launched together with the U.S. after a long period of discussions, Turkey is still approaching the issue cautiously due to its previous failed negotiations with the NATO ally. The U.S., which has designated the PKK a terrorist organization, still allies itself with the SDF in Syria, which mainly consists of YPG terrorists. Turkey wants YPG commanders removed from the SDF's top ranks and Sunni Arabs, together with non-YPG Kurds, included in the lower ranks. US forces conduct first patrol since pullback Meanwhile, U.S. forces in armored vehicles conducted a patrol on the Syria-Turkey border Thursday, the first such exercise since a U.S. decision to withdraw from northeast Syria, an AFP correspondent reported. Five armored vehicles bearing U.S. flags patrolled a strip of the frontier north of the town of Qahtaniyah, an area where Assad regime forces were expected to deploy as part of a deal with Turkey, the correspondent said. The patrol was accompanied by SDF. U.S. forces used to patrol the section of the border north of Qahtaniyah before Washington announced its pullback on Oct. 6. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it is part of an eastern stretch of the frontier where U.S. forces are seeking to maintain a presence. "They want to prevent Russia and the regime from reaching parts of the border that lie east of the city of Qamishli," the head of the monitoring group Rami Abdul Rahman said. The patrol follows the arrival of U.S. reinforcements in Syria from neighboring Iraq in recent days, in what has been seen as a reversal of Trump's pullout order. Washington has begun reinforcing positions in Deir el-Zour province with extra military assets in coordination with the SDF to prevent Daesh and other actors from gaining access to oil fields in the area, a U.S. defense official had said.
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