Turkish-US Patrols of Syria's Manbij May Start 'Today or Tomorrow'

Saul Bowman
November 2, 2018

The Turkish government has always been seeking the YPG withdrawal from Manbij over security concerns, as it regards the YPG as an affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), blacklisted by Ankara as a terrorist organization.

Those Kurdish militia fighters, known as the People's Protection Units (YPG), are bolstered by Washington as part of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) countering IS.

Fighting erupted Tuesday night when Turkish artillery opened fire for the second time this week on YPG positions in Tel Abyad, reportedly killing one fighter and injuring another.

A video released by YPG-affiliated social media pages on Wednesday appeared to show a guided anti-tank missile hitting a Turkish military vehicle.

The Manbij deal focuses on the withdrawal of the PKK's Syrian offshoot, the YPG terrorist organization, from the district that is located west of the Euphrates river in order to establish stability in the region.

Taspinar sees Ankara with the upper hand over Washington regarding the situation in northern Syria, but overall with the release of U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson and open communication in the investigation of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the two countries are diplomatically improving.

The SDF now controls more than a quarter of Syrian territory after its Kurdish dominated forces beat back IS jihadists with USA support over the past three years.

Omer Taspinar is a nonresident senior fellow in the Center on 21st Century Security and Intelligence and an expert on Turkey, the European Union, Muslims in Europe, political Islam, the Middle East, and Kurdish nationalism. There are about 2,000 US Special Forces in Syria advising the SDF, as well as several hundred French troops.

Turkey considers the militia a terror threat and an extension of Kurdish rebels waging an insurgency within Turkey.

"Unilateral military strikes into northwest Syria by any party, particularly as American personnel may be present or in the vicinity, are of great concern to us", US State Department Spokesperson Robert Palladino told reporters on Wednesday.

"When Turkey attacks northern Syria, the United States isn't very happy with this, but on the other hand, it doesn't have much leverage to stop Erdogan", said Taspinar. The continuation of Turkish attacks, the group said, would further delay the offensive on the ISIS-held pocket of Hajin.

According to the Turkish state Anadolu news agency, Turkish artillery targeted Kurdish forces in the Zor Moghar village in Aleppo on Sunday.

Ankara and Washington agreed on a road map in June amid Turkish demands for the withdrawal of the YPG, which freed Manbij from ISIS in 2016.

Palladino said the U.S.is fully committed to Turkey's border security but at the same time expressed Washington's commitment to the Kurdish-dominated Syrian forces.

Joint U.S. -Turkish patrols will begin within hours around the northern Syrian town of Manbij, part of a roadmap for easing tensions between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies, an official with a U.S. -backed militia said Thursday. It also envisions Kurdish YPG forces withdrawing from the town to the east of the Euphrates.

Since Tuesday, Turkish armed forces carried out cross-border shelling near Tal Abyad and Kobani.

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