The fight against ISIS has seen a number of victories since President Trump’s administration took control of the effort.
According to the Daily Caller, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) just accomplished one of Trump’s campaign goals. On Sunday, the SDF seized control of ISIS’ largest oil field, another severe blow following the capture of Raqqa.
The al-Omar oil field has been a major source of revenue for the terrorist organization since they first captured it back in 2014. Selling the oil to Iraqi traders, the Bashar al-Assad government and businessmen who would later funnel it to Turkey has produced millions.
Yet this lucrative revenue source is now in SDF hands who have bullied ISIS out of the Deir al-Zour province after taking Raqqa. With the loss of both their primary revenue source and their last standing capital, ISIS as a formal organization is on the brink of annihilation.
Business Insider reported that President Trump believed oil fields like al-Omar were the life blood of the terrorist organization and removing them from their hands was critical, “ISIS is making a tremendous amount of money because they have certain oil camps, certain areas of oil that they took away.”
Initially, Mr. Trump believed it would be best to blow up the fields and replace them with Exxon infrastructure. “I would bomb the s*** out of ’em. I would just bomb those suckers. That’s right. I’d blow up the pipes. … I’d blow up every single inch. There would be nothing left. And you know what, you’ll get Exxon to come in there and in two months, you ever see these guys, how good they are, the great oil companies? They’ll rebuild that sucker, brand new — it’ll be beautiful.”
Many at the time criticized the idea. The Washington Post reports that Andrew Bacevich, a retired Colonel and professor at Boston University, believed it would be impossible to maintain control of the fields. “To ‘take the oil’ would require the United States to occupy Iraq. We tried that after 2003 with something approaching 200,000 troops and it did not work. What would effective occupation actually require? A minimum of a half-million troops, perhaps more.”
He further believed that the cost would outweigh the benefit. “Presumably, Trump would have them stay until the oil runs out, which would entail an occupation running into decades. The total cost? Probably more than the value of the oil itself. The whole idea is beyond goofy.”
Yet the SDF’s victory could reveal a plan President Trump has been very cryptic about since taking office. According to CNN, he stated that the US might “have another chance” with the oil under ISIS’ control saying, “We’ll see what happens. I mean, we’re going to see what happens. You know, I told you and I told everybody else that wants to talk, when it comes to the military, I don’t want to discuss things. I want to let — I want to let the action take place before the talk takes place,” he said.
One possibility would be to establish an arrangement with Iraqi forces in the area. The US could provide assistance with defense, training of local forces or even reconstruction of infrastructure on oil fields in exchange for a cut of the profits. If set up properly, US troops may not be needed on the ground to defend the oil fields.
President Trump kept one of his top campaign promises. Is Trump succeeding in eradicating ISIS?
There’s no denying that these oil fields are a prize sought after by many parties, and ISIS was allowed to rise to power and thrive thanks to the profits from these areas. Establishing secure, well-defended facilities to extract and process the oil would benefit nearly everyone involved. US-allied forces in Iraq would have the financial means to stabilize the area, terrorists would be denied lucrative businesses to fuel their acts of terror, and the US would be compensated for their efforts in assisting the locals to eradicate a global threat.
Regardless of what happens, the fact that this oil field was taken out of the hands of ISIS deals a major blow to the organization and hinders their ability to terrorize the world. That alone is worth whatever cost was paid and represents a major military victory.