US Doesn't Plan to Withdraw From Syrian Manbij, Despite Turkey's Warning
After launching its Olive Branch operation in Syria’s Afrin, the Turkish authorities said that the operation was likely to expand towards the neighboring city of Manbij, where the US has some 2,000 of its military personnel deployed.
Pulling US forces from Manbij is “not something we are looking into”, US Central Command chief General Joseph Votel said Monday.
Earlier this month, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Ankara will not limit its precautionary measures against the YPG to Syria’s Afrin district but could move to Manbij, also in Aleppo province.
The foreign minister reportedly said that, contrary to US promises, the cities of Manbij and Raqqa were not governed by local councils after being liberated from the Daesh terrorist group, but rather came under the control of the Democratic Union Party (PYD). The latter is considered by Turkey to be affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), designated as a terrorist organization in Turkey.
Following Cavusoglu’s statement, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkish Forces would completely clear the region of terrorists, beginning with the Syrian city of Manbij and throughout the entire Turkey-Syria border.
Prior to Erdogan’s speech, the Turkish Armed Forces launched an operation, dubbed Olive Branch, against Kurdish forces in Syria’s Afrin district. The Turkish government said it had informed Damascus and Moscow, its co-guarantor in the Syrian peace process, of its operation, and has taken into account the position of Tehran, the third guarantor state.
The operation was provoked, as Ankara explained, by the necessity for the country to protect its borders from a “terrorist army,” the new “Border Defense Forces,” comprising the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Kurdish YPG militias, trained by the US.