U.S. Forces in Manbij to stay - top general

The top U.S. general in the coalition fighting the Islamic State (ISIS) has pledged that U.S. troops will stay in the north Syrian town of Manbij to support their Syrian Kurdish allies, the Military Times site reports.

Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk made the remarks at a visit to U.S. forces stationed in Manbij on Wednesday, according to the news report.

The United States’ relationship with the mainly-Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) sparked a diplomatic crisis with NATO ally Turkey in January, after the announcement of a 30,000-strong border force predominantly made up of YPG fighters.

Turkey sees the YPG as the Syrian wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a terrorist-designated organisation in Turkey and the United States that has been involved in a long-running conflict with Turkish armed forces.

Ankara responded to the announcement of the border force by launching Operation Olive Branch on Jan. 20, a military operation against YPG forces in the northwest Syrian town of Afrin. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has threatened to extend the operation to Manbij, and demanded that U.S. forces pull out.

Funk’s remarks confirm that U.S. troops will stay in Manbij, however, meaning that the possibility remains of a direct military confrontation between the two NATO allies.