U.S. troops and armored vehicles were deployed to eastern Syria to protect oil fields from falling into the hands of the Islamic State. Photo courtesy of Operation Inherent Resolve Spokesman Col. Myles Caggins/Twitter
Nov. 1 (UPI) -- U.S. infantry troops and armored vehicles moved into eastern Syria as part of a mission to fight the Islamic State and protect oil fields from falling into their hands, a U.S. military official said.
Col. Myles Caggins, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led mission to defeat IS in Iraq and Syria, said Thursday that "mechanized forces" were being redeployed to the eastern Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor to support the Kurdish-led, U.S.-ally Syrian Democratic Forces "to defeat [IS] remnants, protect critical infrastructure and deny [IS] access to revenue sources."
U.S. Army troops and Bradley armored vehicles were being "repositioned" from Iraq for the mission, Caggins said in a tweet that was accompanied by pictures of troops loading the vehicles onto aircraft.
The move comes a week after U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said they were considering leaving troops in Syria to protect oil fields amid a U.S. forces withdrawal from the country at the orders of President Donald Trump.
In early October, Trump ordered U.S. troops to withdraw from Syria, a move that has attracted bipartisan criticism for seemingly green lighting Turkey to conduct Operation Peace Spring to rid its border with Syria of Kurds it views as terrorists.
On Monday, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said in a press briefing that U.S. troops in Syria will continue to secure the Conoco oil fields in and around Deir ez-Zor to prevent it and revenue from the sale of the oil from aiding IS in resurging in the area.
Esper said that the redeployment was already underway and would continue until they have "sufficient capability" to prevent IS, other similar terrorist groups, Russia and Syria from gaining control of the fields so the SDF can use profits from the sale of the oil to aid the United States in its mission.
"We want to make sure that SDF does have access to the resources in order to guard the prisons, in order to arm their own troops, in order to assist us with the defeat-[IS] mission," Esper said. "So that's our mission is to secure the oil fields."
Caggins said the troop redeployed to the oil-rich area of Syria are National Guard soldiers from North Carolina and South Carolina.