A top U.S. Defense official has said that it is the rebels who are fighting the Bashar-Al-Assad regime in Syria and the Islamic State, and not the United States, who are benefiting by the revenue from oil fields in the country.
“The revenue from [oil fields] is not going to the U.S. [It] is going to the Syrian Democratic Forces,” said Jonathan Rath Hoffman, assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs, during a Pentagon news conference.
According to Rear Adm. William D. Byrne Jr., the vice director of the Joint Staff, ISIS was in control of the oil infrastructure in Syria in 2015 and was producing 45,000 barrels a day — worth about $1.5 million.
Hoffman said ISIS used that money to fund operations not just in Syria and the region, but throughout Europe and the world. “And we want to prevent that from happening,” he said.
The U.S. military and partners in Syria now work “shoulder to shoulder” to keep ISIS forces from ever again having access to the Syrian oil infrastructure and the revenue it produces, Byrne said.
He made it clear that controlling the Syrian oil fields is not the U.S. mission in the country, but to defeat ISIS.
“The securing of the oil fields is a subordinate task to that mission. And the purpose of that task is to deny ISIS the revenues from that oil infrastructure.”
President Donald Trump announced last month that the United States is ending its military presence in Syria, except for a small number of U.S. troops that will remain “in the area where they have the oil”.
Hoffman said ISIS is not eliminated, rather, it’s weakened from what it once was.
Despite suffering the setback of losing its leader Al Baghdadi, ISIS still conducts insurgent operations in Syria, and continues to look for opportunities to regain its strength. “One of the ways they would be able to grow that back is by obtaining access to revenue, including the oil fields”, Byrne told reporters.
Hoffman said U.S. efforts to secure oil fields in Syria serve two purposes – to keep ISIS from benefiting from the revenue the oil fields provide, and to provide Kurds in the area and the SDF with the funding they need to keep pressure on the terrorist outfit.
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