US has started to send reinforcements to Syria, a US defence official has said, as a military convoy flying American flags crossed into the war-torn country from Iraq. Washington is set to use “mechanised forces”—armoured vehicles which can include tanks—to help control Syrian oil fields and prevent Islamic State (IS) group fighters seizing them.
Some 200 US troops are already stationed in Deir Ezzor but President Donald Trump this month ordered an American pullout from Syria’s northern border, paving the way for a long-feared Turkish invasion.
Trump last week said a “small number” of US troops would stay to secure the oil, changing the rationale for his country’s involvement in the war.
Russia responded on Saturday by accusing the United States of “international banditry”. “What Washington is currently doing—seizing and placing under control the oil fields of eastern Syria—is simply international banditry,” Russia’s defence ministry said.
It said Syria’s oil resources did not belong to IS and “even less to US defenders against Islamic State terrorists, but exclusively to the Syrian Arab Republic”.
Meanwhile, Turkey has agreed to "pause" its military action in Syria launched on October 9 on the condition that Kurdish forces withdrew from an initial 120-kilometre area from the border, following a deal with US Vice President Mike Pense last Thursday. Turkey has, however, repeatedly threatened to restart its offensive, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowing to "crush the heads" of Syrian Kurdish forces if they failed to retreat. "At the end of the 120-hour period, the United States announced that withdrawal of PKK/YPG from the area has been completed," the Turkish defence ministry said. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a phone call with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu Wednesday, also confirmed that US military officials informed their Turkish counterparts Kurdish forces withdrew from the safe zone, a Turkish diplomatic source said.