Turkish and U.S. forces close to joint patrols in Manbij - Mattis

U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis has announced that units from the Turkish and U.S. militaries have begun training to conduct joint patrols near Manbij, the northern Syrian area that became the centre of a crisis in U.S.-Turkish relations earlier this year.

Turkey threatened to launch a military operation against Kurdish militias in Manbij earlier this year, despite the presence of U.S. Special Forces units in the area.

The United States sees the Syrian-Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) as vital allies in Syria. However, Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the terrorist-designated Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a group that has fought Turkish security forces in its struggle for Kurdish self-rule, and launched a military operation against the group in Afrin, an area near Manbij, in January.

After months of tension over their differing Syria policies, the United States and Turkey agreed to a “roadmap” for Manbij in June that would see YPG militants cleared from the area and the commencement of joint patrols this year.

Despite continuing tensions holding the countries apart, Mattis’s announcement appears to confirm that this stage of the roadmap is close to fruition.

“The training now is under way and we’ll just have to see how that goes,” Reuters quoted Mattis as saying during his journey to Paris, where he will meet French President Emmanuel Macron and the French defence minister.

“We have every reason to believe the joint patrols will be coming on time, when the training syllabus is complete so that we do it right,” Mattis added.

The training will reportedly take place in Turkey for several weeks before the beginning of patrols.