Video of U.S. Troops Guarding Syrian Oil Sparks Anger

U.S. President Donald Trump has approved an expanded military mission to secure an expanse of oil fields across eastern Syria, raising a number of difficult legal questions about whether U.S. troops can launch strikes against Syrian, Russian or other forces if they threaten the oil, U.S. officials said.

The decision, coming after a meeting Friday between Trump and his defence leaders, locks hundreds of U.S. troops into a more complicated presence in Syria, despite the president’s vow to get America out of the war. Under the new plan, troops would protect a large swath of land controlled by Syrian Kurdish fighters that stretches nearly 90 miles (150 kilometres) from Deir el-Zour to al-Hassakeh, but its exact size is still being determined.

Officials said many details still have to be worked out. But, Trump’s decision hands commanders a victory in their push to remain in the country to prevent any resurgence of the Islamic State group, counter Iran and partner with the Kurds, who battled ISIS alongside the U.S. for several years. But it also forces lawyers in the Pentagon to craft orders for the troops that could see them firing on Syrian government or Russian fighters trying to take back oil facilities that sit within the sovereign nation of Syria.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss internal deliberations.CNN quoted a military official on Monday as saying that U.S. troops stationed in Syria have yet to receive guidance on their mission, including the basic rules of engagement.

Trump’s order also slams the door on any suggestion that the bulk of the more than 1,200 U.S. troops that have been in Syria will be coming home any time soon, as he has repeatedly promised.

Video of U.S. troops standing alone guarding oil derricks in Syria went viral on Twitter as high profile commentators from across the political spectrum expressed anger and frustration.

Trump’s former anti-ISIS envoy Brett McGurk shared the clip with the caption, “These images of US forces now in Syria with an ill-defined mission to guard small oil fields make me cringe.”

2020 Democratic presidential candidate and Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard speaking in Laconia, New Hampshire this week, said, “It is a disservice to our troops to dishonour them by sending them on a mission that has nothing to do with our National Security, this is about oil … it’s illegal and unconstitutional.”

The Pentagon will not say how many forces will remain in Syria for the new mission. Other officials, also speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing deliberation, suggest the total number could be at least 800 troops, including the roughly 200 who are at the al-Tanf garrison in southern Syria.

According to officials, lawyers are trying to hammer out details of the military order, which would make clear how far troops will be able to go to keep the oil in the Kurds’ control.

The legal authority for U.S. troops going into Syria to fight Islamic State militants was based on the 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for Use of Military Force that said U.S. troops can use all necessary force against those involved in the Sept. 11 attacks on America and to prevent any future acts of international terrorism. So, legal experts say the U.S. may have grounds to use the AUMF to prevent the oil from falling into IS hands.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Kootneeti Team

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Melanie Romaro

Melanie Romaro is a Geopolitical Analyst at The Kootneeti. She holds a Masters degree in Political Science & International Relations from the State University of Colorado. She can be reached at melainieromaro@gmail.com

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