US to Keep Troops in East Syria, Maybe to Control Syria’s Oil

200 US troops would have 'dual-purpose' mission

In puzzling comments earlier in the day, President Trump appeared to be declaring Syria a war about oil, and declaring victory, Tweeting “We have secured the Oil. Bringing soldiers home!”

The context wasn’t readily apparent, and it wasn’t true anyhow since comments from Defense Secretary Mark Esper made clear US troops are not coming home. Now, it turns out some US troops aren’t even leaving Eastern Syria, and the reason is the oil.

Sunday night’s report say Trump is now leaning toward a scheme to keep around 200 ground troops in eastern Syria, based on a plan the generals have sold him on. The 200 troops would have a”dual purpose” mission to fight ISIS and to keep Syria’s government from controlling Syria’s oil production facilities.

This seems a profoundly tall order for 200 US troops, and it’s not clear by what right the US would even claim its military is entitled to prevent Syria from controlling Syria’s own oil.

It makes more sense that this is a US goal, however, or at least a talking point, given Trump’s bragging about having “secured the oil” in Syria. Whether they can actually do this is another matter.

Where the US troops will be positioned is unclear, as the Pentagon is refusing to comment at all on the matter. But for those who viewed going from Syria to Iraq as a big disappointment with Trump talking about “bringing soldiers home,” having hundreds not even leaving Syria at all is an even bigger letdown.

If this turns out to be the case, this will be the second time in the past year that Trump has announced a military withdrawal from Syria, defended that plan in the face of criticism, and then ultimately bailed on it to keep troops in place with more military goals added all the time.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.