Jun 07 2018

Manbij military council rejects Turkish military deployment

The authorities controlling the north Syrian town of Manbij said on Wednesday they would not accept any Turkish military deployment there, after Ankara and Washington announced on Monday they had reached an agreement for administering the area, Reuters reported

When asked by Reuters if the Manbij Military Council, which is allied to the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), would accept a Turkish military presence, the council’s spokesman Sharfan Darwish said it would not.

After months of frictions and negotiations over the issue, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday agreed to a roadmap on Manbij, which includes the withdrawal of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) from the area.

The roadmap suggests this should take place within 30 days after the beginning of its implementation. The YPG on Tuesday announced that its military advisers would leave the town.

Turkey sees the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which has been fighting inside Turkey for more than 30 years and recognised by the U.S. as a terrorist organisation. 

According to Darwish, the council has not yet been officially informed of the mechanisms of the Turkey-U.S. roadmap. He added that the council was capable of preserving the security and borders of the town against any external threats.

The desire to keep Turkey and its allies out of Manbij was reiterated on Thursday after consultation with a U.S. delegation by Mohamed Abu Adel, the head of the council, the Daily Star, a Lebanese newspaper, reported.

The Manbij Military Council would continue to govern the area without changes, though the civil administration may change, Abu Adel said.

Another Kurdish official, Ilhan Ahmed, said the U.S. delegation had assured the council that Turkish forces and their Syrian auxiliaries would be kept out of Manbij.

This would include the joint U.S.-Turkish patrols set out in the road map, which Abu Adel said would only take place along front lines already delineated near Turkish-controlled areas. 

"If the patrols are only on the front lines, we don't have a problem with that. But not inside the town," the Daily Star quoted Abu Adel saying.