US is in talks with Turkey about Manbij: Mattis
WASHINGTON – Anadolu Agency
"I am not going to discuss [it] right now," Mattis told reporters at a news conference. "It is simply not the right time to do this in the public square."
Mattis was referring to Turkey’s plan to launch a military operation in the strategically important northern city as part of Operation Olive Branch.
Manbij lies northeast of Aleppo but just south of the Turkish border. Washington has voiced concern about the safety of U.S. troops in Manbij amid Turkey's ongoing operation in northeastern Syria.
There are about 2,000 American soldiers in Manbij.
Describing Turkey's ongoing military operation in Afrin as a "distraction" from the fight against ISIL, Mattis said speaking about Manbij publicly “could make the situation more difficult, in terms of domestic audiences that have got to deal with their [countries’] own understandable positions.
"It’s how do you balance the competing interests. I can just tell you it’s an active discussion right now with our ally, Turkey,” he added.
Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch on Jan. 20 to clear YPG and ISIL militants from Afrin.