The U.S. will strengthen its military presence in Syria with “mechanised forces” to prevent Islamic State fighters seizing oil fields and revenue, the U.S. Defense Secretary said on Friday, the latest twist in President Donald Trump’s confusing policy on Syria.
Mr. Trump has been softening his pullout plans for Syria after a backlash from Congress, including among key Republicans, who say he enabled a long-threatened Turkish incursion against Kurdish forces in Syria who had been America’s top allies in the battle against Islamic State.
“We are now taking some actions… to strengthen our position at Deir al zor, to ensure that we can deny ISIS access to the oil fields,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters during a press conference.
“We are reinforcing that position, it will include some mechanised forces,” Mr. Esper said. Mechanised forces usually include tanks and other military assets.
He did not say how many forces were currently in the region or how many additional forces would be sent.
The vacuum left by Mr. Trump’s partial withdrawal has created an opening that Russia exploited by moving forces into the area.
Around 300 more Russian military police have arrived in Syria, the Russian Defence Ministry said on Friday, under an accord between Ankara and Moscow which halted Turkey’s military incursion into northeast Syria.