Effort to prevent attack on Kurdish forces by Turkey, ISIS
An armored column of American troops was spotted near the Syrian city of Manbij in a show of force after Turkey threatened to attack Kurdish forces currently occupying the city.
The United States confirmed the presence of American soldiers near Manbij following video footage released by the Kurdish-affiliated Manbij Military Council (MMC) while sporadic gunfire continues between the MMC and Turkish forces to the west of the city.
The Manbij Military Council is one of four military councils established by the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Colonel John Dorrian, spokesman for the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, tweeted the deployment near Manbij was a “deliberate action” to assure that forces within the coalition “deter aggression” and “keep the focus on defeating ISIS.”
Dorrian noted American troops have been active in the area around Manbij since the city’s liberation from ISIS in the summer of 2016.
The suggestion to keep coalition forces focused on defeating ISIS, and the deployment of American troops to the city, was likely a veiled message to the Turkish government, and the rebel forces it supports, to stop attacking Kurdish forces in areas recaptured from ISIS.
In an effort to prevent an attack by Turkish forces, the MMC ceded control over six villages west of Manbij to the Syrian Army under the terms of an agreement reached with Russian assistance.
“These six villages were liberated from Daesh during the Al-Bab operation. They are located 22 kilometers to the west from Manbij. Under an agreement with Russia they are now under control of the Syrian Army,” an official with the MMC said.
The agreement reportedly created a demarcation line between Kurdish-allied forces in Manbij and forces allied with the Turkish military.
“We will not let other forces enter the region. Manbij was liberated by Kurds and coalition forces. The same forces will continue to protect the city and its population,” the MMC said in a statement.
The same senior MMC official noted the deployment of American troops to the area, as well as a recent shipment of weapons to Kurdish fighters.
“In addition, US troops and armored vehicles were deployed in northern Manbij. Yesterday, the US made a large shipment of weapons to the regions,” the source continued. “Meanwhile, fierce clashes are still underway in the area.”
The Turkish government opposes the presence of Kurdish forces near its border, and has regularly launched air and artillery strikes to halt their advance. Turkey’s ties to rebel forces linked to ISIS and other radical organizations is well known.