Feb 25 2018

After Afrin, Syrian government forces may enter Manbij

Forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad will enter the city of Manbij in the coming days, following an agreement with the Kurdish dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an anonymous Kurdish official told Russian news site Sputnik on Saturday.

The news comes following developments last week that saw pro-government Syrian forces enter Afrin to help Kurdish forces there resist a Turkish invasion that began over a month ago.

Damascus has expressed opposition to the Turkish operation, saying it violates Syrian sovereignty.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, meanwhile, has often threatened to expand the operation to areas of Syria further east that are also under the SDF control, including Manbij. Turkey considers the SDF, and other Kurdish groups operating in Syria as terrorist organisations.

Whilst the arrival of pro-Syrian government forces in Manbij may deter Turkish plans, it would complicate U.S. strategy in Syria, raising the possibility of further clashes with the U.S., which has soldiers stationed in the city alongside SDF fighters. Hundreds of pro-Syrian government forces, including Russians, were killed in U.S. airstrikes on Feb. 7 in clashes around the oil-rich city of  Deir al-Zor in eastern Syria.