Turkish military delegation visits Syria’s Manbij for field investigation
Sevil Erkuş - ANKARAA military delegation from the Turkish Armed Forces, accompanied by U.S. soldiers, visited Syria’s Manbij region last week for a field investigation to ensure fighters from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) were not present in the area, a Turkish official has told the Hürriyet Daily News.
The U.S. is not a facilitator for talks between Turkey and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the official also said, refuting a statement released by a Washington-led anti-Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) coalition official.
“This week, we’re facilitating joint discussions with Turkey, the SDF and other coalition partners to promote de-escalation in the area,” anti-ISIL coalition spokesman, Air Force Col. John Dorrian, had told reporters last week in a video briefing from Baghdad, as reported by AFP.
“Every party to these discussions has an overriding interest in common: The defeat of ISIL, an enemy that threatens us all,” Dorrian said.
Turkish leaders have repeatedly urged the U.S. to keep its promise for the withdrawal of YPG fighters from Manbij to the east of the Euphrates River. Washington and the Democratic Union Party (PYD) have said at multiple times that the YPG forces had either left Manbij or would leave the city soon.
The SDF is primarily comprised of the YPG, which is the military wing of the Syrian Kurdish PYD. Turkey views the YPG and PYD as the Syrian offshoots of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), with which it has been in an armed conflict since the mid-1980s. Turkey, along with the U.S. and the EU, designates the PKK as a terrorist organization.
The U.S., however, does not similarly label the YPG, the PYD, or the SDF - which is composed of Kurdish and Arab militias - as terrorist groups. Washington has extensively relied on these groups to roll back ISIL inside Syria.
The SDF is currently carrying out a campaign to oust ISIL from its self-declared Syrian capital of Raqqa. A major goal of the U.S.-led coalition is to eliminate the jihadists from territories under its control in the region.