Military: Without Agreement Between Players, Manbij Will Become Next Deir ez-Zor
In light of the launch of coordinated patrols along a demarcation line near the Syrian town of Manbij by the US-led coalition and Turkey, Sputnik has reached anti-terrorism expert and former Turkish special forces operative Abdullah Ağar for comment.
In an interview with Sputnik, the expert addressed the statement by the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who stated that the Manbij Roadmap and Manbij Security Principles could be applied to other regions in Syria. The expert stressed that Ankara thus tried to make Western countries concentrate on Syrian peace talks rather than “proxy wars.”
Otherwise, he said, Kurdish People’s Protection Units would continue to enhance their positions along the Turkish borders to the West of the Euphrates, which may result into the recurrence of a Deir ez-Zor situation, Ağar believes:
“The model under which Turkey seeks to achieve a consensus on Manbij is different from the model that was created by Russia, Turkey and Iran during the Astana process; it’s developing along a different axis. The presence of the Syrian Democratic Forces, which are largely composed of the YPG Kurdish protection units in the area, is Turkey’s greatest concern.”
The anti-terrorism expert has explained that those forces represented “a more serious threat” to Ankara than Daesh, since they threatened the “integrity of Turkey’s unitary structure.”
“When Operation Euphrates Shield was still at the development stage, Manbij was included in the list of areas that fall into the zone of the campaign. During the operation, French and US special forces units wedged into the territory between the Turkish Armed Forces and areas controlled by Kurdish forces. Trying to prevent a possible clash at that time, Turkey concentrated all its forces in the fight against Daesh. After the Euphrates Shield came to end, the original territory of the operation in al-Bab of 5,000 square kilometers was limited to 2,015 square kilometers,” Ağar elaborated.
He went on to say that tensions between Turkey and the US are not only connected with the situation in Manbij, but also with the inclusion in the Syrian peace process of those areas that are located along the Turkish border to the East of the Euphrates and are controlled by “Kurdish units” due to the “support of the United States and European countries.”
“From this perspective, Turkey points to the situation around Manbij as a certain model of action. Peacekeeping issues in Syria are being discussed during the negotiation processes in Geneva, Astana and Sochi, but the United States and European countries are not represented on this axis. Without reaching a mutual agreement between the players in Syria, the issue of a peaceful settlement cannot be resolved. This can lead to another round of hybrid struggle for spheres of influence in the region, similar to what we saw in Deir ez-Zor,” the expert concluded.
On June 20, the Syrian Foreign Ministry condemned the Turkish and US military patrols in Manbij, dismissing their presence as a “continued aggression.”
The foreign ministry’s statement came shortly after the US-led coalition and Turkish forces had started independent but at the same time coordinated patrols along a demarcation line of Manbij. The two sides also planned joint patrols in the future, according to a US Central Command press release.
Earlier this month, the US State Department announced that Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had endorsed a roadmap to guarantee stability in Manbij.
The US-backed YPG, which are viewed as a terrorist group by Turkey, have agreed to retreat to the eastern side of the Euphrates River, thus meeting a longstanding demand by Ankara.
Most Syrian territory has been liberated by government forces with Russia’s air support, while the only remaining terrorist pockets are located in US-controlled areas, including Deir ez-Zor.