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Kurdish-led SDF wants to connect Kurdish cantons following Manbij liberation

By Rudaw 14/8/2016
Members of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). AFP photo.
Members of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). AFP photo.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region - The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) reportedly seek to continue their  advance against Islamic State (ISIS) militants along the Syrian border with Turkey and link-up with the westernmost Syrian Kurdish canton, Afrin, following their successful liberation of Manbij. 

After two months of laying siege to Manbij the SDF successfully liberated the city on Friday. The remaining ISIS militants there fled back to the Turkish border with civilians they had taken as human shields. The liberation of Manbij effectively cuts off ISIS’s Raqqa stronghold completely from that border.  

A Kurdish affairs analyst who has regular contact with the SDF, Mutlu Civiroglu, told Germany’s Deutsche Welle on Sunday that the SDF’s primary aim is to link up with Afrin and clear remaining ISIS militants along the border instead of capturing Raqqa, which is the ultimate goal of the US-led coalition in Syria. 

That coalition has been giving the SDF air support throughout its offensives against ISIS.  

“The SDF desires to go west to Afrin, which has been under political and economic embargo by the al-Nusra Front and other Turkey supported groups for over two years,” Civiroglu said. 

Turkey opposed the Syrian Kurds advancing along Syria’s northwestern border with Turkey Ankara does not want to see the Syrian Kurdish Peoples Protection Units (YPG) – the foremost armed group in the SDF – dominate Syria’s border with Turkey, given its links with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). 

However, a secret agreement was reached between the US and Turkey in May in which Ankara agreed to acquiesce to an SDF offensive against Manbij, provided Arab members of that coalition did the bulk of the fighting (with the YPG playing a supporting role) and an Arab council would govern the city following its liberation. 

The Pentagon’s Deputy Press Secretary Gordon Trowbridge was asked about this promise on Friday in light of the successful liberation of the city. He said the US government recognizes Turkish concerns, adding that, “Manbij is historically an Arab city. It is our expectation that after its liberation is completed that will continue.” 

Trowbridge went on to add that the US has been talking to the Manbij Military Council about how they will go about bringing back civilian control to the city.


Serxwebûn | 14/8/2016
We will continue to liberate Kurdish lands in western Kurdistan like manbij, jarablus, bab and azaz! Instead of this naturally cause, we will also conquer raqqa and maybe parts of the corridor to ras al-basit and of the deir az-zor province. Nobody can imagine yet how big rojava will be at the end. I salute all heroes who martyred for the sacred cause of an independent and free Kurdistan. This victory in manbij is a gift to martyr commander Faysal Abu Layla and all those who sacrificed their lives for it. We can see a high struggle in all parts of Kurdistan now. It doesn't matter if it is in Amed, Hewlêr, Qamişlo or Mehabad, we are one and closer to an united fatherland than ever! Long live the kurdish struggle! Long live the unity of the Kurds! Martyrs never die!
olga Naccache | 14/8/2016
what about kurdistan in Turkey ??? What are the plans there ???
FAUthman | 14/8/2016
Manbij was won by Kurds, so were Gre Spi and Kobane. Do not knock it. The US will not forget that. Hillary is an intelligent decent human being and will make thoughtful decisions as US President esp. with Bill by her side. She will not abandon the Kurds, although one of my friends has placed a bet with me that she will! a bet he will lose.
Uncle Sam | 20/8/2016
I think it is pretty obvious that the goal was always to link Afrin with the rest of the cantons. The US knew this from the start. It makes strategic sense. The unification with Afrin will allow the SDF access to larger numbers of men and prevent the fall of Afrin any small groups left in the pocket of FSA forces will be pressured to switch to SDF and if they cause trouble they'll be put down but quick. Turkey is a fool if they think they can pressure the US to give up on the SDF. It is obvious that after the war the SSA and the SDF will have to come to an agreement as the SDF will need access to the sea if they're to thrive. Russia knows this and thus is betting on winning them over at some point. With Russia/US competing over an alliance with the SDF they are in a strong position. After the Cantons are taken expect a slow drive into Arab lands as fortifications are going to be more important but a need for US support will push the SDF south where they will target gas/oil fields, farmland and Raqqa. They'll not want to stretch themselves more than they have to so if the Arabs are particularly hostile and the area is not strategic they'll avoid the area or use it as a possible trade piece with Assad after the war is over and the borders need to be drawn. I expect the SDF to take 25%-40% of Syria. But I don't expect them to keep it all when they sit down at the table with Assad. In the end they cannot be surrounded by enemies Turkey is impossible Turkey controls the Iraqi Kurds to some extent, Southern Iraq ties to Iran means they'll likely be less than helpful... long story short SDF will have to trade with Assad. Assad after the war will still have to worry about rebels thus will need money thus trade... plus the Kurds will make a good buffer state. These battles between the two are not likely to last more posturing and settling borders early. *end of rant*

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