Washington ‘committed to’ Manbij pledge
AFP photoThe Pentagon said Aug. 15 that it is committed to conducting the Manbij operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) “in accordance with commitments made between the United States and Turkey.”
“We have been clear with all elements of this operation that the aim is to defeat [ISIL] in Manbij and return it to the control and governance of the local population,” Pentagon spokesman Adrian Rankine-Galloway said.
“We have openly promised that these operations will be conducted in line with the promises given between the two countries,” he told the state-run Anadolu Agency.
Rankine-Galloway made the comments hours after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu reminded the U.S. of its promises that Kurdish forces would not remain in the area following the operations.
Çavuşoğlu stated Aug. 15 that he expects Kurdish forces contributing to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to pull back from the east of the Euphrates River upon the completion of the Manbij operation against ISIL, as promised by the U.S.
Turkey views the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Rankine-Galloway said the U.S. was grateful for Turkey’s partnership in the fight against ISIL and that the aim of the ongoing operations by the U.S.-led Syrian Arab Coalition (SAC) in Manbij was to defeat the militant group and return it to Syrian Arabs.
U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter congratulated Manbij residents and the SAC for the “significant milestone” in successfully liberating Manbij. Carter also said he appreciated the Turkish government for its support for the operation.
“The success in Manbij city will also help reinforce the growing isolation of Raqqa and enable us to achieve the next objective of our campaign in Syria – [destroying] ISIL’s control over that city,” he said in a statement.
Since operations began in May to liberate Manbij, the U.S. has promised Turkey that the PYD would leave the area after the city’s liberation.
Manbij lies west of the Euphrates River. Turkey wants the PYD to return to the east of the Euphrates after Manbij’s liberation as the city constitutes ISIL’s key line of communication between the Turkish border and Raqqa, the self-declared capital of the militants.
Asked what the recent efforts were in the city’s liberation from ISIL, the Pentagon said the situation was “very fluid” but that U.S. partners on the ground were “closing in” on the fight.
“The final positioning of forces is under the command and control of SAC and SDF. We won’t speculate as to a timeline,” Rankine-Galloway said in an email.
Meanwhile, U.S. State Department Spokesperson Elizabeth Trudeau said the Arabs fighting for Manbij were from Manbij, and “they’re fighting to take back their homes.”
“The Kurdish forces are a critical component of the SDF. That said, we do have commitments from the Kurdish leadership that the local Arabs liberating their own lands will be the ones to rebuild the area and restore local control when the terrorists are finally evicted. I think that answers some,” Trudeau said Aug. 15.