The Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) will withdraw from northern Syrian town of Manbij towards the east of the Euphrates River, as Turkey has long demanded, the United States and the YPG both vowed on Nov. 16.
“Milestone: all #YPG units to depart Manbij & return east of Euphrates after local units complete training to maintain security after #ISIL,” tweeted U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, Brett McGurk, on Nov. 16.
“Our @coalition is proud to train and support local forces to defend their home areas as the best formula to ensure #ISIL can never return,” McGurk added.
Shortly after his tweet, the YPG said in a written statement that they would withdraw from Manbij after their forces completed their tasks and join the operation to liberate the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL) de facto capital Raqqa.
“Currently, military and security institutions in Manbij are in a position to respond to possible attacks. We would like to state that after our forces finalize their roles in the city, we are going to withdraw the YPG forces positioned in Manbij and participate in the Wrath of Euphrates campaign,” Doğan News Ageny reported the YPG as saying in a written statement on Nov. 16.
“Wrath of Euphrates” is the name of the operation launched by U.S.-backed Syria Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab armed groups, to retake the Syrian city of Raqqa from ISIL militants.
Manbij is a key Syrian city close to the Turkish border that was liberated from ISIL militants with the help of the U.S.-led coalition in August.
Turkey has repeatedly stated that the Euphrates River is its “red line” and it wants YPG forces to retreat to the east of the river.
U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner said on Nov. 3 that there was no new deal with Turkey over the clearing of Manbij from the YPG, adding that it had already cleared the area
The clearing of Manbij from YPG forces has been one of the sticking points of the already tense relations between the U.S. and Turkey.
Ankara and Washington are at odds over the designation of the PYD and the YPG. While Turkey regards them as terrorist organizations due to their ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party
(PKK), the U.S. says they are effective partners in their fight against ISIL.
Turkey rejects any option of cooperating with PKK-affiliated groups in campaigns against ISIL either in Syria or Iraq.