United States President Donald Trump has said some American soldiers will remain in Syria despite his administration’s decision to withdraw military forces from the Syria-Turkey border, BBC reported on Tuesday. Trump said a small group of soldiers would be stationed at oil fields while others would be deployed near Israel and Jordan.

This came hours after United States Defence Secretary Mark Esper revealed that the Trump administration was contemplating about leaving some soldiers behind in North Syria, The Washington Post reported. “The troops in those towns are not in the present phase of withdrawal,” Esper said during a visit to Saudi Arabia, according to The Guardian. “A purpose of those forces, working with the SDF [Kurd-led Syrian Democratic Forces] is to deny access to those oilfields by Isis and others who may benefit.”

Trump has faced criticism for leaving the Kurdish forces, who were US allies in the fight against the Islamic State group, to fend for themselves in the face of Turkey’s military onslaught in the region. The president again defended his actions. “Why should we put our soldiers in the midst of two large groups, hundreds of thousands of people that are fighting?” he asked. “I don’t think so. I got elected on bringing our soldiers back home.”

Earlier this month, Turkish troops carried out airstrikes and hit the Kurds with artillery barrages. Ankara later agreed to a ceasefire in the region to allow Kurdish-led forces to withdraw.

Meanwhile, videos shared online showed local people in Syria pelting fruits, rocks, and heckling American soldiers leaving the region.

Trump had first announced the troop withdrawal in December 2018. The decision was met with heavy criticism and has since gone through a number of modifications.

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