Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper confirmed on Friday that troops would remain in eastern Syria to prevent the seizure of Islamic State oil fields.
Speaking at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Esper said that military planners were "considering" how we could deploy forces "and that deployment" would involve some mechanized forces, such as tanks or other armored vehicles and support personnel.
A US intelligence official on Syria operations said Trump's interest in oil has enabled the Pentagon, unhappy with the original decision, to hang up its push for full withdrawal and allow counterterrorism and air-force controls.
"It's like feeding a baby with his medicine in yogurt or apple sauce," said an official, one of several who spoke on condition of anonymity about US internal discussions.
A senior diplomat NATO says Esper offers some details about the new deployment during the NATO meeting.
"He is trying to clarify Trump's intuitions," the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity, to discuss the closed-door discussions. . "It's hard."
Sep. Lindsay O. Graham (RS.C.), an ally of Trump who called the decision to withdraw a big mistake, insisted on the case for control of oil fields at noon Thursday with the president.
"He sees the benefit … of controlling oil as part of an anti-ISIS strategy," Graham said in an interview.
Trump declared the militant caliphate "1
00 percent" defeated, even though US officials said that thousands of Islamic State fighters remain in Syria.  Eastern oil fields in Deir al-Zour province, where most of Syria's relatively small and low-quality reserves are located, have once been a major source of income for fighters selling Syrian oil. government, Turkey, etc. order, even to the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
The large-scale US air bombardments and coalition have driven the Islamic State either underground or away from the region since early 2015. Since then, the SDF has controlled it in the presence of around 200 U.S. troops, according to people familiar with the operations, the SDF continues to sell oil on the black market – largely to the Syrian government.
The desert region is far from the large Kurdish regions of Syria that lie along the northern border. Hundreds of thousands of Kurdish civilians have been driven south and east into Iraq by Turkish troops and their Syrian Arab allies, who have driven at least 20 miles in Syria.
Another US official said the latest plan required several hundred troops, but "less than a battalion" spread in the region several places between the cities of Hasaka and Deir al-Zour. The battalion in most US military units includes 800 to 1,000 troops. An official said those forces would be in addition to those already there, with the result being close to 1,000 rejected initially withdrawn Trump.
The introduction of tanks or Bradley combat vehicles – which accompanied Trump during his July 4 speech in Washington and cost less to operate – are a "symbolic move with tactical benefits," an official says.
These advantages include long-range optics that can help detect enemy forces and the ability to maneuver over uneven terrain that other vehicles struggle with, an official said. But mostly they show firepower, the employee said. There are about 12 to 15 tanks or Bradley's in each company that owns them.
Trump has announced the American shot from Syria after succumbing to the Turkish invasion. Turkey has asked the SDF, whose Kurdish leaders believe that terrorists allied with Kurdish separatists in Turkey will abandon the border region.
But the northern edge was also the main land route for the supply of US forces in Syria, including those in Syria, Deir al-Zur Province, where they must remain to guard Syria's largest oil field.
The area is remote and inaccessible except at three border crossings from Iraq, two of which are controlled by Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Iraq. The main crossing at Fishhabor is in the far northeast corner of Syria, inside an area now claimed by the Syrian government under an agreement signed this week by Turkey and Russia, a major ally of Assad.
An American official said that this week the military is continuing to deploy ground escorts for deployment to Syria from Iraq via Fishkhabour, passing through this week, necessitating deconvolution with Russian forces.
Access to any of the intersections also requires permission from the Iraqi government, which said last week that US forces evacuated there from Syria can only stay for four weeks.
Even if the border checkpoints can be negotiated with Russia, Syria, Iraq and the militias – depending on who is responsible at one time and place – road access to the scattered and relatively small deviations of the US around Omar's main oil field remains uncertain and difficult on desert tracks and dirt roads, according to several people with knowledge of the arts
While larger US installations – many already abandoned – were clustered in Kurdish regions closer to the Turkish border, the US presence in less populated paradise they are slightly to the south, said Nicolas A. Heras, a scientist who follows Syria to the Center for a New American Security.
"The United States is dependent on the SDF and the devil will be in the details" of any deal, said Heras.
"The maintenance and protection of troops in isolated areas of Deir al-Zour will be a challenge. 19659002] If the United States is unable to maintain a land route in Syria, it may be necessary to expand a small airport in the area of Deir al-Zor or a base in Remaylan, south of the Turkish expansion zone in northeast Syria. The base is the second largest US facility after the border town of Kobane, now occupied by Russian forces and other forces, and the only one that can currently accommodate large cargo planes, Heras said.
US mission shifted to oilfield conservation may raise issues in Congress.
The Pentagon operates in Syria under a longstanding military use permit adopted by lawmakers following the September 2001 terrorist attacks targeting "nations, organizations, or individuals" who
While the Obama and Trump administrations claim that the permit allows action against the Islamic State, the Syrian regime also seeks oil fields. In February 2018, US forces used air strikes and artillery to kill over 100 advancing Russian mercenaries and Syrian forces advancing in the area after commanders determined US troops on the ground were in danger there.
Esper's announcement in Brussels limits two days of discussions at NATO headquarters, which were dominated by anger directed at Turkey, a member of the alliance, for invading Syria.
Turkey's agreement with Russia to jointly send troops to the region to fill the vacuum created by the withdrawal of the US has also caused acid in NATO. The Alliance spends much of its energy fighting counter-threats to the Kremlin, and many fear that increased volatility in Syria is a gift to Russia.
But NATO does not have many calls to take action against Turkey. The rules of the organization do not allow for the expulsion of members, nor is it a place for imposing sanctions. Individual members have broad authority to hold decisions. And many NATO members still estimate that while Turkey may be a discouraged ally, their own security is still improving with it inside.
Birnbaum reported from Brussels. Josh Dawsey in Washington contributed to this report.