The US military augmented its contingent in Syria with a platoon of armored fighting vehicles to show strength and intimidate Russian troops, Central Command (CENTCOM) chief Frank McKenzie said on Thursday.
McKenzie explained in an interview with the Defense One media outlet that the decision was made a couple of months ago in response to a Russian patrol that was not coordinated with the Americans.
“We thought it is appropriate to show them a little more teeth up there. So we brought an M2 Bradley platoon, which is armored fighting vehicle,” he said.
The general added that he decided to keep the armor in Syria to ensure that US servicemen on the ground have the protection they need to carry out tasks assigned to them.
McKenzie said that around 900 US troops are stationed in Syria in two clusters – near the country’s southern border with Jordan and in the northeast area where they assist Kurdish militias from the Syrian Democratic Forces.
He denied rumors attributed to former envoy James Jeffrey that the military and diplomats played “shell games” to hide actual numbers from President Donald Trump to keep as many forces in the country as possible, contrary to the president’s desire.
McKenzie also said that it is the SDF fighters who defend oil fields in Syria and US troops just enable them to do it. Control over reserves is necessary to prevent them from falling into the hands of the Islamic State terrorist group (outlawed in Russia), and allowing them to regenerate a nascent economy in eastern Syria.
Since 2015, the US has established nine military bases in northeastern Syria. Five of them are located in Hasek, and four more are in the vicinity of the oil fields in Deir ez-Zor. At the end of last year, US President Donald Trump approved a plan according to which several hundred American troops will remain in Syria with the task of controlling the oil fields in the northeast of the country.