Turkey-backed Syrian rebels approach Kurd-controlled Manbij - AA
Syrian rebels backed by Turkey have taken positions just outside the Kurdish-controlled Syrian town of Manbij, as Ankara and Washington begin to coordinate a U.S. withdrawal from Syria, Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency reported on Monday.
"Hamza Division, a component brigade of FSA (Free Syrian Army), after completing their training, were positioned on the borders of terrorist organisation YPG/PKK and Bashar al-Assad's regime forces with heavy weapons and heavy armament combat vehicles," Anadolu Agency said.
Manbij, a major flashpoint between Ankara and Washington, is under the control of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a United States ally that Turkey views as an extension of the Kurdistan People’s Party (PKK), with which it has been fighting for decades in southeast Turkey.
"Our units are on their ways to invaded regions by the terrorist, we will liberate Manbij after cleaning all members of the terrorist organisation," Anadolu Agency quoted FSA commander Abu Yezen as saying.
Turkey has deployed the FSA groups in the military operations of "Euphrates Shield" and "Operation Olive Branch".
The military activity comes two days after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Turkey would postpone a planned military operation against Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) forces east of the Euphrates river in northern Syria following the U.S. decision to pull out.
Turkey also sent reinforcements to its border with Syria, Demiroren News Agency reported on Sunday, adding that some 100 vehicles including mounted pickup trucks and weaponry had made their way to the area.
The vehicles crossed to the Al Bab region of northern Syria, Turkish daily newspaper Hürriyet said, before approaching Manbij.
Military convoys, including howitzers and artillery batteries, were also spotted travelling to locations on the Turkish side of the border with Syria, including Elbeyli in Kilis province, according to the Turkish state-run Anadolu Agency.
The White House on Dec. 19 announced the withdrawal of 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria, a move some see as Washington abandoning its Kurdish ally on the ground. YPG has for years been the backbone of the U.S.-backed coalition fighting the Islamic State.