U.S. President Donald Trump has said that he's interested in making a deal with ExxonMobil or another U.S. energy company to operate Syrian oil fields, as he commented on U.S. troops' current situation in Syria.
"What I intend to do, perhaps, is make a deal with an ExxonMobil or one of our great companies to go in there and do it properly," Trump said on Oct. 27 during a news conference about the U.S. special forces operation that led to the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
"Right now, it's not big. It's big oil underground, but it's not big oil up top, and much of the machinery has been shot and dead. It's been through wars. But — and — and spread out the wealth," he added.
Trump is currently under bipartisan fire for his decision to pull U.S. troops from Syria, which paved the way for Turkey to launch an offensive against Washington's main allies in the fight against ISIS - the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Upon his announcement regarding Baghdadi's death, Trump was asked whether he is reconsidering pulling U.S. troops.
"Well, I don't have a Syria pullout. I just don't want to guard Turkey and Syria for the rest of our lives. I mean, I don't want to do it. It's very expensive. It's very dangerous," he said, adding that "I will secure the oil."
“The oil is so valuable, for many reasons. It fueled ISIS, number one. Number two, it helps the Kurds – because it’s basically been taken away from the Kurds... And, number three, it can help us, because we should be able to take some also," he added.
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said last week that the U.S. will send in troops to protect Syrian oil fields from ISIS.
Syria produced around 380,000 barrels of oil per day before the war erupted. An International Monetary Fund working paper in 2016 estimated that production had declined to just 40,000 barrels per day.
Robert O'Brien, a U.S. National Security advisor to the president, said a U.S. military presence will be required to protect the Syrian oilfields, suggesting it also should have a say on their proceeds.
"We're going to be there for a period of time to maintain control of those and make sure that there is not a resurgence of ISIS and make sure that the Kurds have some revenue from those oil fields," O'Brien said, speaking to NBC News' Meet the Press with Chuck Todd.
Russia 'unaware' of alleged assistance in Baghdadi operation
The Russian Defense Ministry, meanwhile, said on Oct. 27 it was not aware of any assistance that Russia had allegedly provided to the U.S. air forces in the operation that targeted Baghdadi.
"We are unaware of any alleged assistance to the flying of U.S. aviation into the airspace of the Idlib de-escalation zone during this operation," Major-General Igor Konashenkov was quoted by RIA as saying.