Trump: US Forces in Syria ‘Only for the Oil’

Contradicts Pentagon claims war is about other things

Speaking during a visit with Turkey’s President Erdogan, President Trump sought to simplify the US role in Syria, saying Turkey’s issues over the border were thousands of years in the making.

“We’re keeping the oil, we have the oil, the oil is secure,” Trump insisted in comments, adding that “we kept troops in Syria only for the oil.” This is in keeping with Trump’s talking points of recent weeks, which emphasize the idea that the US is going to take Syria’s oil.

The insistence that the US is there “only for the oil,” however, is a critical point, because it runs directly contrary to every comment made by anyone else in the administration in recent weeks.

Pentagon officials have played up the idea of the US fighting with Syrian troops, Russian troops,and ISIS as reasons for staying in the country. Some have been dismissive of the idea that the US would be keeping the oil at all, despite President Trump very clearly, repeatedly saying that’s exactly what he intends to have happen.

Whether this represents an actual split in policy understanding or not is unclear, as Pentagon officials may just be slightly more conscious of the illegality of occupying part of a country explicitly to loot its natural resources, and may be hoping to invent a narrative where  that’s either not happening, or at the very least isn’t all that’s happening.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper says what US troops remain in northeast Syria will be out in another “week or so.” These are only troops that remain positioned in the Turkey-claimed safe zone, and not the US troops engaged in the occupation of Syrian oil.

Getting US troops away from Kobani, where Turkish troops were killing Kurdish protesters, may remove the US directly from that matter, though it’s also liable to attract further attention to the Trump idea that this is a war for oil, nothing more and nothing less.

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.