Turkish troops and Turkish-backed rebels will not move into the Manbij city, though U.S. and Turkish forces began patrolling along the demarcation line north of Manbij with coordinated independent patrol activities on Jun. 18, the U.S. Department of Defense has revealed to Ahval.
Manbij is a flashpoint city in northern Syria and has been a matter of contention between Washington and Ankara since 2016, when Syrian-Kurdish Forces dominated by the People's Protection Units (YPG) captured the city from Islamic State militants.
Turkey labels the YPG as a terrorist organization and extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which began an armed struggle against the Turkish state in 1984 in pursuit of Kurdish independence. The organisation has evolved over decades and in the recent past gave up its separatist agenda to instead fight for autonomy for Turkey's Kurdish minority.
Earlier on Monday, the Turkish Armed Forces issued a statement to confirm many social media reports that the U.S. and Turkish military forces, in accordance with the Manbj Roadmap and Manbij Securty Principles, had begun patrolling near Manbij.
Department of Defence spokesman Eric Pahon, in an exclusive statement to Ahval, said "(t)he patrols are taking place outside of Manbij, along the northern demarcation line," but Turkish troops will not move into the city.
Pahon gave the same answer when asked if Turkish-backed rebels would move into the city.
"The patrols are part of the ongoing process to de-escalate current tensions along the demarcation line between the Manbij Military Council and the Syrian opposition north of Manbij," Pahon said. "These patrols support our commitment to long-term security and stability in Manbij, and the U.S. commitment to addressing security concerns of NATO ally Turkey."
An SDF official said in an earlier Ahval report by Wladimir Van Wilgenburg that the Manbij Military Council (MMC) would remain in control of Manbij, and not the Turkish army.
The mutli-ethnic MMC was set up by forces including the Syrian Democratic Forces, affiliates of the YPG, as the military administration of the region on its liberation from the Islamic State.
Pahon confirmed to Ahval what the SDF official told earlier, said, "that is correct" that the MMC will continue controlling Manbij city.
In the same report by Wilgenburg, SDF officials confirmed to Ahval that the Turkish forces had not entered and the territory was still under MMC control.
Turkish officials have stressed for months that the Manbij agreement will be a blueprint for the future of the region. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has claimed that Turkey and the United States will make similar agreements to clear Kurdish forces from Raqqa, Kobane and other Syrian cities.
Asked if this is the understanding of the Pentagon, Pahon said, "The U.S. anticipates a return to representative governance representative of local populations," and added that the State Department is the more appropriate place to ask this question. One senior official from the State Department told Ahval last week that they have not heard of such a plan before.
Pahon said, contrary to the some comments, starting the Manbij patrol in Turkey's election week ahead of June 24 has nothing to do with politics, added, "The two events are unrelated. The U.S. and Turkey have been working toward resolution in Manbij for quite some time."
Speaking to reporters on the day it was announced that the U.S. and Turkish forces began patrolling near Manbij, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the Turkish forces will go into Manbij and will "cleanse from terror."