The Kurdish-led SDF alliance is a key ally of the US-led coalition against ISIS. File photo AFP/Getty Images.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launched an offensive against Islamic State (ISIS) militants in the Manbij pocket in a bid to cut them off from the Turkish border on Wednesday.
Clashes between the SDF and ISIS were “fierce and intense” an SDF advisor told AFP.
The offensive into the Manbij region comes a week after the SDF launched an offensive against ISIS in the northern countryside of Raqqa province.
It also comes after ISIS made advances in northwestern Syria, surrounding the key town of Mare’a and inching closer to the town of Azaz, near Syria Kurdistan’s westernmost canton, Afrin, and the Turkish border.
ISIS has used the northwestern Syrian border with Turkey to smuggle in new recruits and weapons, while the rest of the Syrian border has been closed off by Kurdish-led forces.
While Turkey opposes ISIS’s presence there it also does not want the Kurdish Peoples Protection Units (YPG) advancing into that region.
A Turkish military source cited by Hurriyet news said on Wednesday that Turkey had been informed by the US about this operation but is not contributing to it.
"Turkey has no contribution to the support that the US gives to the YPG in Syria's Manbij region. Turkey was informed by the United States about the operation, but any contribution is out of question," said the source.
"It is also out of question politically for Turkey to give support to a YPG operation," the source added.
The YPG is the largest group fighting under the umbrella of the SDF. US officials have sought to reassure their Turkish allies by claiming most of the SDF members taking part in this offensive are Arabs.
US Special Forces advisors and air power are assisting the SDF in both these offensives.
Turkey opposes US support of the Syrian Kurds – saying they are part of its outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) – and says the US should ditch the YPG in favor of a joint American-Turkish operation against ISIS in Syria.
“Actually if we join forces… we could easily advance to Raqqa after opening a new front on the Jarablus line and clear out the area towards the south and seal the Manbij pocket,” Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a press conference on Sunday.
“We say okay, a second front should be opened but not with the YPG,” he said.