Pentagon chief says keeping some troops in northeastern Syria under discussion

Reuters , Monday 21 Oct 2019

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper addresses reporters during a media briefing at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., October 11, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS)

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Monday that keeping some U.S. troops in parts of northeastern Syria near oilfields with Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to ensure the oil did not fall into the hand of Islamic State or others was one of the options that was being discussed, but no decision had been made.

"We presently have troops in a couple of cities that (are)located right near that area, the purpose is to deny access, specifically revenue to ISIS and any other groups that may want to seek that revenue to enable their own malign activities," Esper told reporters in Afghanistan.

"There has been a discussion about possibly doing it (keeping some troops), there has been no decision with regard to numbers or anything like that," he added.

Esper added that while the withdrawal from northeastern Syria was under way, some troops were still with Kurdish-led SDF forces near oilfields and there had been discussions about keeping some of them there.

Esper said he had not presented that option yet, but the Pentagon's job was to look at different options.

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