A local female Manbij Military Council trainee fires a 7.62mm PK machine gun during marksmanship training Feb. 21, 2017, at Sanaa Training Center in northwest Syria. Photo: Master Sgt. Mark Burrell | US Army
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Turkish forces started patrolling the outskirts of the northern Syrian town of Manbij on Monday under a new deal with the US, according to Turkish media. But the commander of the Manbij Military Council (MMC) denies Turkish troops have entered the city.
Turkish broadcaster NTV first reported the Turkish troop movements on Monday.
“Turkish Army has not entered Manbij, they are only inside Sajur border line and they have begun mobilization inside Euphrates Shield borders,” Mohammed Abu Adil, commander of the YPG-affiliated MMC, told Rudaw.
“The fighters of the Council are in their positions and no problem has occurred.”
Separate Turkish and US patrols are expected to be coordinated around Manbij.
“Based on our agreement with the coalition, we were aware of these movements. Turkey’s movement is to the north of the Sajur line, meaning in Euphrates Shield areas. The American forces will patrol the Manbij Military Council side of the line,” Shervan Dervish, spokesperson for the Manbij Military Council, told Rudaw.
“We will say it clearly: No Turkish forces have entered Manbij, neither its villages nor the town itself.”
He added that the patrols are to defuse tensions and to prevent trouble from arising.
Ankara and Washington earlier this month endorsed a roadmap for the withdrawal of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) from Manbij. The force is part of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) which has liberated most major cities in northeast Syria from ISIS.
After meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu expressed hope that the US will “stand with us” in regards to Ankara’s concern over the YPG.
“I am very glad that we have achieved a significant progress. I can say that it was a very fruitful and successful meeting,” he said, according to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency.
The US maintains force presence and base in Manbij to support anti-ISIS operations.
The YPG withdrew the bulk of its forces from Manbij in November 2016. Some remained in an advisory capacity. Those departed the city on June 5.
Turkey considers the YPG to be the Syrian extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a banned political party in Turkey that has struggled for greater cultural, political, and minority rights for nearly 40 years. Washington, Ankara, and Brussels list the group as a terrorist organization. The YPG denies any organic links with the PKK.
Last updated 9.47 P.M.