All roughly 100 U.S. armored vehicles evacuating northeast Syria in a convoy have arrived in Iraq, a U.S. defense official tells Fox News.
Earlier today in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said some U.S. troops will stay behind, and “remain in the towns that are located near the oil fields” in northeast Syria to protect them from ISIS, Syrian regime or Iranian forces.
Esper said the plan to guard the oil still needed President Trump’s approval.
A few hundred other U.S. troops will remain in southern Syria at a garrison near the border with Jordan, the president said last week in a statement.
“Our forces will remain in the towns that are located near the oil fields. The purpose of those forces, a purpose of those forces working with SDF, is to deny access to those oil fields by ISIS and others who may benefit from revenues that can be earned. I’ve made no decision with regard to various options. Those are things we would have to be presented to the president in due course,” Esper said earlier in the day.
The U.S. military convoy left over the weekend for the Iraqi border. They were met by Kurdish protesters in some cases pelting the trucks with rocks and tomatoes - anger over what they call a betrayal by Trump to leave them to be slaughtered by Turkish forces and mercenaries. Despite Trump saying he wanted to bring the forces home, Esper says the bulk of the roughly 700 U.S. troops in northeast Syria would be going to Western Iraq, not returning home to the U.S. Hundreds of other U.S. troops will remain in southern Syria.
Sunday, the top Kurdish general of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the main U.S. ally against ISIS in Syria told our colleague Jennifer Griffin in a phone interview from Syria that Turkey has violated the ceasefire negotiated by Vice President Mike Pence and Turkey's president last week. More than 500 Kurdish civilians have been killed, and more than 400,000 displaced.
Gen. Mazloum Abdi said Turkey had tricked the U.S. by pulling back its troops from the border and having Kurdish forces destroy their bases before pulling back, as well. The joint U.S.-Turkish patrols near the border earlier this month gave valuable intelligence to Turkey to spy on Kurdish positions ahead of the invasion, Mazloum said.
The oil fields have been the scene of fierce fighting. In February 2018 U.S. Special Operations soldiers and Kurdish forces came under attack, by a group of Russian mercenaries. U.S. apache gunships, fighter jets and bombers were called in to kill hundreds of the Russian and pro-Assad forces.
Trump hinted over the weekend about the plan by tweeting that US troops had “secured the Oil.”