U.S. Special Operations forces ride in the back of a pickup truck in the village of Fatisah in the northern Syrian province of Raqqa on May 25. (Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images)
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region—A group of US military advisers have taken part in the ongoing operation to retake the strategic town of Manbij in northeast of Syria, which started last week, says the spokesperson of the Manbij military council, Sharvan Darwesh.
Darwesh, who is also a member of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), told Rudaw that the US team led the intensive aerial attacks on ISIS positions in and around the besieged city.
An additional 250 US troops were deployed to Syria last month to coordinate with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a military umbrella group which also includes the YPG.
There are currently some 5,000 US troops in Iraq and around 500 in neighboring Syria.
“ISIS defense lines were effectively weakened after repeated coalition airstrikes and the ground offensive that targeted the town from two directions,” Darwesh said and added that the SDF troops were currently located less than 10 kilometers from Manbij.
“If we continue as planned, our troops should be in the city in two weeks,” he added.
Manbij, with a population of 80,000, is regarded as a strategic town due to its location in the northwestern corner of the country located between ISIS held Aleppo in the south and Jarablus in the north. The city is some 50 kilometers from the Kurdish controlled Kobani and if retaken from ISIS, it could facilitate an integration of the two cantons of Kobani and Afrin in the northwest, currently separated by ISIS held territories.
Turkey has been a vocal opponent to YPG control of the region fearing it could strengthen the Kurdish guerrillas grip on the bordering areas. It has occasionally shelled the advancing YPG forces in northwest of Syria near its own borders.
Ankara has shown more restraint in the ongoing operations in Manbij after US officials reportedly gave assurances that the YPG forces would retreat from the area after the operation.
US President Barak Obama spoke with the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on May 19 about the current offensive.