A source close to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) told Sputnik Turkey that the US had started beefing up their military presence in Manbij and sent weaponry to the region in response to Ankara’s signals about a potential operation in the city, located in the northeast of Aleppo Governorate.
It was reported that the fighters of the Manbij Military Council, subordinated to the SDF command, had doubled security measures on Manbij’s border, from the side of Jarabulus. Additionally, the US has reportedly sent armored vehicles and heavy weapons to the council. Emblems of the Manbij Military Council were pasted on the armored car delivered to the region.
“The US is strengthening its position in the region after Turkey’s announcement of a possible operation in Manbij,” a Manbij Military Council representative told Sputnik on condition of anonymity. “The Americans have increased the number of their bases in the region from 2 to 4, and have also boosted the amount of assistance provided to us. Trucks loaded with armored vehicles and heavy weapons were sent here yesterday.”
The source specified that the SDF had received “mortars, assault rifles, howitzers, thermal-guided missiles, heavy machine guns and other weapons” from Washington.
“The US supplies us with weapons on an as-needed basis,” the council representative explained. “We are forced to take tightened security measures and intend to continue countering any threat posed by Turkey, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) or Daesh [ISIS/ISIL]* to our region. Therefore, we need more weapons and inform the US and coalition forces about it.”
On October 17, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that “Turkey could easily clear northern Syria’s Manbij of the Kurdish YPG [People’s Protection Units] militia if the United States failed to do so,” Reuters reported, citing Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
Following the meeting with Pompeo, Cavusoglu specified that Washington agreed that the US-Turkish deal to clear Manbij of the YPG had been postponed.
According to the plan, negotiated by Pompeo and Cavusoglu in June 2018, the YPG should leave Manbij and move east of the Euphrates River.
On October 14, Hurriyet Daily News wrote that Turkish and US troops had kicked off joint exercises for combined patrols in Manbij, citing the Turkish military.
However, Washington does not appear to be abandoning its Kurdish allies. Earlier, the US secretary of state hailed them as “great partners” while speaking at a conference of the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA) on October 10.
The Kurdish issue still remains a bone of contention between Ankara and Washington. According to Ankara, the YPG and its political wing, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), are nothing more than affiliates of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is outlawed in Turkey.
Although Ankara finally released American pastor Andrew Brunson, thus making a conciliatory gesture towards the US, Washington remains reluctant to abandon the Syrian Kurdish fighters.