U.S. forces erecting two new bases in Syria – Turkish agency

The United State is setting up new military bases in Syria’s northern flashpoint city of Manbij, Turkish government-controlled Anadolu Agency said on Tuesday.

U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) captured the city of Manbij from Islamic State (ISIS) in August, 2016. Turkey regards the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Syrian Kurdish militia that makes up the bulk of the SDF, as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that has been fighting Turkey for more than 30 years.

But the United States backs the SDF as the most effective land force to fight ISIS and has troops stationed in Manbij. Washington says Turkey’s offensive against the YPG is undermining the fight against the remnants of ISIS.

Turkey and the United States have been negotiating over fate of Manbij for months. Ankara maintains the previous Obama administration promised Syrian Kurdish fighters would leave the city once it was captured from ISIS.

But, Anadolu said, “the U.S. is extending an observatory in Dadat village, northern Manbij, in order to build a base, according to information received from trustworthy local sources in Manbij.”

“The base will be located 8 km from Sajur River, which forms the frontline between Jarabulus, the Euphrates Shield area, and Manbij, the YPG/PKK invaded area.”

Turkish-led forces captured parts of northern Syria from ISIS in 2016 in an offensive it called Operation Euphrates Shield.

Anadolu said another U.S. base was being built in Manbij 4 km from the frontline, south of Dadat and “when completed, this will be the closest U.S. base to the Euphrates Shield forces.”

U.S. President Donald Trump last week pledged to pull out U.S. forces from Syria “very quickly”. But on Friday, the Defense Department said U.S. enforcements were being sent to Manbij. The Wall Street Journal the said on Saturday that White House had frozen $200 million of stabilisation funds to a mainly YPG-held northeastern Syrian region. To add to the mixed signals, AP said on Monday the United States was getting ready to send 2,000 additional U.S. troops to Manbij. Turkish President Erdogan repeatedly stated in recent weeks that the Turkish forces would turn to Manbij once the Afrin Operation is over.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed French President Emanuel Macron, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Kosovan Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj in speeches on Saturday, but praised what he said were “changes in U.S. policy” with regards to Syria, a day after he and Trump had talked on a phone call.