US, Turkey to soon begin joint patrols in Syria’s Manbij: US commander
AL-UDEID AIR BASE
Turkish and American troops could begin conducting joint patrols in a matter of days around the northern Syrian city of Manbij within the coming days, the top U.S. commander for the Middle East said on Oct. 21, the Associated Press reported.
Army Gen. Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command, told reporters traveling with him that the soldiers’ training is expected to last “several more days,” and then will transition to combined patrols.
The Manbij patrols are part of a road map that Ankara and Washington agreed on in June to defuse tensions amid Turkish demands for the withdrawal of a PKK-affiliated militia that freed the town of Manbij from ISIL in 2016.
The U.S. and the Turks have been conducting independent patrols along the border, and joint patrols are considered a way to tamp down potential violence between the various groups there.
“We’re right on track with where we want to be,” Votel said. “We’ve been through a very deliberate and mutually agreed upon training program.”
He said the platoons will include security personnel. He did not provide details on the size of the units or how many U.S. and Turkish forces will be involved in the program. U.S. platoons can often include a couple dozen soldiers.
The initial instruction of Turkey’s military trainers began at the beginning of the month, then all the troops were brought together for training to ensure they can all communicate, work together and operate with the same military tactics and procedures, particularly if there is an attack or other incident.
The training had been delayed a bit while equipment was brought in and the two countries worked out the details of how the operations would be conducted.
The patrols will add to the security of the area, Votel said, adding that right now Manbij is stable and “we want to double down and consolidate our gains.”
Manbij has been a major sticking point in the strained relations between the U.S. and Turkey.
Ankara considers the U.S.-backed YPG a terror group that is linked to the illegal PKK.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan raised the issue of the YPG’s presence in Manbij with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a meeting held in Ankara last week.
“Turkey is ready to “eliminate terrorists in Manbij if the U.S. is facing difficulties,” Çavuşoğlu told reporters following his meeting with Pompeo in the Turkish capital.
Çavuşoğlu and Pompeo brokered a deal on June 4, which sought the withdrawal of the YPG from Manbij and the joint control of the city by Turkish and American troops.