America will never desert Syria's oil, President Trump promised Thursday—and he suggested that if the Kurds want protection, they should move closer to the oil. Syria's oil fields "were held by ISIS until the United States took them over with the help of the Kurds," Trump tweeted. "We will NEVER let a reconstituted ISIS have those fields!" He added that he had enjoyed a conversation with Syrian Kurdish commander Mazloum Abdi, and "perhaps it is time for the Kurds to start heading to the Oil Region." A Pentagon source tells USA Today that the US plans to send troops, tanks, and armored vehicles to protect oil fields in eastern Syria, just weeks after most American troops withdrew from the country.
Sources tell the Wall Street Journal that the White House is considering having around 500 troops and dozens of tanks in northeast Syria, though the Journal's sources say no final decision has been made yet. Under pressure from GOP lawmakers including Sen. Lindsey Graham, Trump left around 200 troops in the area after earlier ordering the pullout of all US troops. A defense official tells NBC that the number of American troops—who would again be operating alongside the Syrian Democratic Forces, the mostly Kurdish force that Abdi leads—has not been settled on yet, but "we're not talking thousands." Analysts say that although Trump spoke of protecting the oil from ISIS, the deployment may really an effort to prevent it from being seized by Russia or the Assad regime. (Read more Syria stories.)