Withdrawal of YPG from Manbij is still ongoing: Turkish MFA sources
Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA
Reports that the last members of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) pulled out from the Syrian town of Manbij on July 15 are “exaggerated” and “do not reflect the truth,” sources from the Turkish Foreign Ministry told Hürriyet Daily News on July 16.
“The process is still ongoing,” said the sources, on condition of anonymity. “Their withdrawal continues from checkpoints on the patrolling route. Therefore, reports that the PYD [Democratic Union Party]/YPG have entirely withdrawn from Manbij is not reflecting the truth,” said the sources.
Turkey and the United States had announced a roadmap after a June 4 meeting in Washington between Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and American counterpart Mike Pompeo. The deal focused on the withdrawal of the YPG from Manbij and on the stability in the region.
Ankara has long been outraged by the U.S. support for the YPG in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Ankara says the YPG is the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which it considers a terrorist organization.
The Turkish General Staff said in a statement on June 24 that the two countries’ forces conducted patrols separately in the west of Manbij. The first patrols by Turkish and U.S. troops in the region began on June 18 and the 11th round of patrolling was completed on July 15.
“The last group of military advisers from the People’s Protection Units finished withdrawing on July 15, 2018 after completing their mission to train and develop our forces, under the deal with the international coalition,” the local Manbij Military Council said on July 15.
The YPG forms the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Kurdish-Arab alliance that has ousted ISIL from swathes of Syria with help from the U.S.-led coalition.
Ankara and allied rebels overran the YPG’s northwestern bastion of Afrin in March and threatened to continue on to Manbij.
That raised the spectre of a possible confrontation with the American and French coalition troops stationed in the town.
A flurry of diplomacy between the U.S. and Turkey produced a joint roadmap to coordinate security in Manbij and to avoid a clash.
The YPG announced in June it would withdraw its forces from Manbij, but did not specify how many were still left in the town.
Since conflict broke out there in 2011, Syria has been sliced up into various zones of control, with the government making a comeback to hold more than 60 percent of the country.
However, much of its north is controlled by the YPG or its allies and the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIL operates several bases there.