A crowd of thousands took to the streets of Afrin city on Sunday to protest Turkey’s ongoing military operation. Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Manbij Military Council has vowed to resist any potential Turkish military operation on the city. It said any such assault would only destroy its hard won peace and allow terrorist groups to return.
"We would like to let the public know that any possible attack on the city of Manbij will be responded to with the same historic resistance of Afrin, and it will be a harsh lesson for anyone who dares to go forth against Manbij," the SDF-linked Manbij Military Council (MMC) said in a statement on Monday.
Turkey and its proxies in the Free Syrian Army (FSA) previously tried to take over Manbij, but were stopped by the "resistance and determination of the Manbij Military Council," the statement said.
In early 2017, as part of its Euphrates Shield operation, Turkish and FSA forces launched attacks on several villages in the Manbij area. US forces mobilized
in the area in a display of support for their allies and the council handed over control of some villages to Syrian state forces to serve as buffer between them and the Turkish army.
The MMC condemned Turkey’s ongoing operation in Afrin.
"This aggression that practices ethnic cleansing and mass genocide against our people in Afrin is aimed for producing terrorist groups in areas where there is peace and coexistence," the MMC added.
It called on the international community and human rights groups to oppose aggression against both Afrin and Manbij.
The local administration has imposed a 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew on the city, citing security concerns. It came into force on February 5 and is expected to remain in place until February 25.
Manbij fell to ISIS early in 2014 and became a hub for the group's foreign fighters. ISIS was ousted from the city on August 12, 2016 by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) with coalition backing.
The multi-ethnic town is now ruled by the MMC and a civilian council.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on January 26 that Operation Olive Branch may extent eastward from Afrin to Manbij and all the way to the Iraqi border.
A day later, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu requested the US military immediately remove its troops stationed in Manbij.
Colonel Ryan Dillon, spokesperson for the US-led Coalition, insisted US troops are not planning to leave Manbij and will stay
until told otherwise.
"Turkey knows where our forces are in Manbij, and what they are doing there, and why they are there – to prevent any kind of escalation between the groups who are in that area," Dillon told Rudaw.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag told CNN Turk on Sunday that "American soldiers in YPG uniforms" would become targets in any confrontation between Turkey and the US.
The armed Kurdish force YPG is the backbone of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the war against ISIS.
Operation Olive Branch began on January 20 when Turkish forces launched a military incursion into the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in northwest Syria. Turkey believes the ruling Kurdish groups in Rojava, northern Syria are “terrorists,” a charge the groups deny.
The Turkish advance on Afrin has made slow progress. Most of the fighting has been concentrated along the mountainous frontier.