The U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) claimed Saturday to have recaptured Syria’s largest oil field from the Islamic State.
Syrian government forces and the U.S.-backed SDF are in a race to take control of energy resources in Syria located in Deir ez-Zor province, and according to SDF spokesman Nasser Haj Mansour, the militia seized the Conoco gas field Saturday, ripping it away from ISIS fighters, the Associated Press reports.
“This is the first gas or oil field in the campaign which we have liberated,” one SDF commander told Reuters.
Mansour added that SDF took the al-Izba gas field, as well. Both fields are located in Deir ez-Zor.
Brig. Gen. Talal Silo, also from the SDF, stated that the firefight killed 65 ISIS militants, while 100 others surrendered.
ISIS has controlled the Conoco gas field since 2014.
Russian airstrikes have backed Syrian government forces advancing on Deir ez-Zor from the west, while SDF, backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, has been moving in from east of the Euphrates River. Syrian forces have now crossed over to the eastern side of the river, placing them about 2.5 miles away from U.S.-backed forces.
Revenue from oil and gas fields has functioned as major driver of ISIS operations, and the Syrian government desperately needs the money to rebuild a country wracked by years of civil war.
But for Army Col. Ryan Dillon, Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman, the idea that the U.S. is locked in a proxy race with Russia for energy resources in Syria is false.
“From the coalition’s perspective it has not been a race, we are not in the land-grabbing business,” Dillon told Reuters.
“Our goal as I have said a dozen times is fighting ISIS. We don’t have a fight with the (Syrian) regime. We are not in a fight with the Russians. We are there to fight ISIS and that’s what we are going to do,” Dillon added.
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