A picture that claims to show the deployment of US forces to Manbij, northern Syria, on Friday. Photo: Hawar News ANHA, a media affiliated with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region –The US-led international coalition against ISIS has “deliberately” deployed forces from the US army to Manbij in northern Syria, to “reassure” the Manbij Military Council (MMC), an ally of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and “deter aggression” against them, the spokesperson for the coalition said on Saturday.
Commenting on a video published by the MMC that claimed to show the arrival of US forces to the under-attack Syria town of Manbij, Colonel John Dorrian confirmed in a tweet that US forces had arrived to reassure members of the coalition in the fight against ISIS.
“[Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve] has taken this deliberate action to reassure coalition [members and] partner forces, [and] deter aggression and keep focus on defeating ISIS,” Colonel Dorrian said, responding to a tweet from Rudaw English on Saturday that included screen grabs from the MMC video.
Earlier, Rudaw tweeted: Amid clashes with Turkish-backed forces, Manbij Military Council published video reportedly of US forces arriving north of Manbij on Friday.
The clashes between the Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the MMC, both allies of the US forces on the ground, have continued as of Saturday afternoon, Hawar News (ANHA), a media affiliated with the SDF reported.
Colonel Dorrian said that their forces have been active in and around Manbij since the liberation of the town in August 2016, and have increased their presence in the area after the withdrawal of the People's Protections Units (YPG) from Manbij in November that year to "deter hostile acts, enhance governance [and] ensure there is no persistent YPG presence."
On Thursday, MMC announced that it had reached a deal with Russia to hand control of territory west of the city along its frontline with the Turkish army and the FSA over to regime forces in order to “protect civilians” as villages in the area had come under attack by the FSA and Turkish forces.
People living in the area are unhappy with the decision that will see them come under Damascus’ control, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The Syrian army has already entered these areas as was agreed upon, according to a Russian military official.
The MMC, a local council formed to oversee the liberation of the city from ISIS last summer and subsequently responsible for its security, made the decision to cede control to Damascus in order to create a buffer zone between its forces and the Turkish and FSA forces.
Shervan Derwish, spokesperson for the MMC, said in a series of tweets early Friday morning that they do not consider Turkey an enemy but are focused on fighting ISIS.
On Friday, the MMC reported that the village of Kur Huyuk, 30 kilometers west of Manbij, had come under artillery fire from unnamed forces, causing civilian casualties. The Council also reported on Thursday that many families had been displaced by fighting in the area.
The YPG announced in mid-November that they have withdrawn their forces from the northern Syrian city of Manbij after enabling local forces, with support from the coalition, to protect the city, adding that the withdrawn units will join the US-backed Syrian SDF in the operation to retake the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa.
The military operation to retake Raqqa from ISIS to oust the extremist group from its de facto capital was launched on November 6 on two fronts by an amalgam of fighters, including the YPG and its female counterpart YPJ, under the SDF flag.
The SDF liberated Manbij in mid-August after a months-long campaign against ISIS.
Turkey, which considers the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan’s Workers’ Party (PKK), has repeatedly asked the Kurdish forces to withdraw from all areas west of the Euphrates, and has expressed its concerns to the US regarding its partnership with the SDF in their campaign against ISIS.