Washington has no timeline for withdrawing troops from Manbij – Pompeo
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States had no fixed plans for withdrawing troops from the Syrian district of Manbij and said he was concerned about the renewal of the Turkish-Kurdish conflict in the region if the United States pulled its troops out of the northern town.
Turkish troops and their Syrian Islamist allies seized the Kurdish-controlled northwestern Syrian district of Afrin in March and Turkish leaders have said they aim to push Kurdish forces out of Manbij next. But the presence of U.S. troops in Manbij, who are training Kurdish forces to fight Islamic State, makes any unilateral attempt to take over the area a dangerous gamble for Turkey.
“We made progress now three weeks ago in and around Manbij, we came to an understanding about how our forces would work together to resolve a very complicated issue between Kurds and Arabs, a real mix … and we are hopeful we can build on that. They will ultimately be part of a political resolution there and an important part,” Pompeo told the Senate Committee on Appropriations.
When asked if he is aware of any plans to withdraw U.S. forces from around Manbij, Pompeo said, "No Ma’am" and continued:
“There is no timeline, it is truly conditions based, it’s when we believe we have set up political processes that can sustain the conditions on the ground in Manbij in a way that is satisfactory to each of the two sides.”
U.S. special envoy Brett McGurk said on Tuesday that Washington had agreed a roadmap for Manbij with Turkey. But Pompeo made clear that moving forward was conditional on events and actions by both sides.
Pompeo reassured senators who expressed concern that the Trump administration might throw Syrian Kurds under the bus.
“There is no administration intention to hurl any large yellow objects whatsoever,” he said.
Pompeo also addressed Senator Van Hollen's question about F-35 new generation fighter jets and whether they should be transferred to Turkey. Senator wanted to hear definitive answer that the U.S. will not deliver the F-35s to Turkey until they pledge that they will not acquire the S-400s, Russian air defence system. Pompeo said "We’ve been very clear with the Turks that – about the risks associated with the acquisition of the S-400."