Jan 31 2018

U.S. fears “unintended incident” in Syria’s Manbij – National Security Council

An unnamed spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council has expressed concern over the possibility that events could get out of hand in Manbij, a Kurdish-controlled area of northern Syria where U.S. troops are stationed, in case of a Turkish intervention in the area.

The concern was “over the potential for an unintended incident in Manbij, Syria, where coalition forces continue stabilisation efforts to ensure the lasting defeat of ISIS,” the spokesman told Washington, DC-based radio station WTOP. “Heated rhetoric and the variety of armed local groups create risk for miscalculation.”

“We are already working closely with Turkey to address the threat that the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) poses to Turkish security, and we will not accept PKK attacks against Turkey,” the spokesman said.

Manbij is held by Syrian Kurdish forces of the YPG militia that Turkey says is part of the PKK. Both Turkey and the United States list the PKK, which has fought a separatist campaign against Turkey since 1984, as a terrorist organisation.

But the United States has backed the YPG in its fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria. The YPG says it has no links to the PKK, though it shares the same ideological leader.

Pentagon chief spokeswoman Dana White also told the radio station there were concerns over its current operation in Afrin, an area of northern Syria controlled by the YPG, spreading to places where U.S. troops were based. The United States has troops stationed in Manbij, but not in Afrin.

“We’ve told Turkey we want this to be limited,” she said.

“Turkey is a NATO ally, and Turkey is the only NATO ally with an active insurgency within its borders, so its security concerns are legitimate, and we’re talking to them about it. We’re fully engaged, and we are working with them to combat some of the terrorist threats that they face.”

The United States reserved the right to defend itself if its troops were in danger, White said.

“We always reserve the right of self-defence,” she said.

“But we are working with Turkey to ensure that they de-escalate this offensive, that they limit it, and again, that all parties focus on defeating ISIS.”