US to boost troops pro­tect­ing Syr­ian oil

The Korea Times - - WORLD -

QAMISHLI (AFP) — The U.S. said Thurs­day it would beef up its mil­i­tary pres­ence to pro­tect north­east­ern Syria oil fields as Kur­dish forces aban­doned sev­eral po­si­tions to com­ply with a deal al­low­ing Da­m­as­cus, Ankara and Moscow to carve up their now-de­funct au­ton­o­mous re­gion.

“The U.S. is com­mit­ted to re­in­forc­ing our po­si­tion, in co­or­di­na­tion with our SDF (Syr­ian Demo­cratic Forces) part­ners, in north­east Syria with ad­di­tional mil­i­tary as­sets to pre­vent those oil fields from fall­ing back to into the hands of ISIS or other desta­bi­liz­ing ac­tors,” a Pen­tagon of­fi­cial said in a state­ment.

The of­fi­cial did not pro­vide any num­bers or con­firm re­ports that U.S. ar­mored as­sets would stay by the oil­fields, once used to fund the Is­lamic State group’s short-lived “caliphate.”

The an­nounce­ment came as Rus­sian forces be­gan pa­trolling the flash­point Syr­ian-Turk­ish fron­tier, filling part of the vac­uum left by a U.S. troop with­drawal that ef­fec­tively re­turned a third of Syria to the Moscow-backed regime of Pres­i­dent Bashar al-As­sad.

An AFP cor­re­spon­dent saw a Rus­sian pa­trol set off from Qamishli west­wards along the bor­der fly­ing Rus­sian flags.

The Rus­sian de­fense min­istry said the pa­trol cov­ered “more than 60 kilo­me­ters” (37 miles) be­tween Qamishli and Amuda.

The Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights re­ported that the Kur­dish-led SDF had pulled out of some ar­eas at the eastern end of the bor­der on Thurs­day.

Yet fight­ers from the Kur­dish Peo­ple’s Pro­tec­tion Units (YPG)

— the main com­po­nent of the SDF — re­mained in many po­si­tions along the 440-kilo­me­tre bor­der, said Ob­ser­va­tory head Rami Ab­del Rah­man.

The Bri­tain-based war mon­i­tor also re­ported clashes near the town of Tal Tamr be­tween SDF fight­ers and some of the Syr­ian for­mer rebels paid by Turkey to fight ground bat­tles.

On Tues­day Rus­sia and Turkey signed a deal in the Black Sea re­sort of Sochi that promised a ceasefire while re­quir­ing Kur­dish forces to with­draw to a line 30 kilo­me­ters from the bor­der.

Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan, who is em­bat­tled on the do­mes­tic po­lit­i­cal front, hopes to use the pocket to re­set­tle at least half of the 3.6 mil­lion Syr­ian refugees his coun­try hosts.

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