Manbij Agreement Tests US-Turkish Ties #TurkeyUS
A US-Turkish agreement over Syria’s northern city Manbij will test whether confidence can be restored between the two NATO members, a Western diplomat told Asharq Al-Awsat on Tuesday.
According to the arrangement made, US-Turkish patrols will be formed and US-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) will exit east of the Euphrates.
Strengthening the role played by the Manbij military council and the formation of a civilian council are also part of the deal. Ankara announced that the schedule set will serve as a progress “indicative” and that the implementation of each phase depended heavily on the success of the one before.
However, the Russian-run base in Syria’s Hmeymim did not approve the US-Turkish arrangement and slammed it as invalid.
“We had about 300 units, but the number has been reduced gradually and there are only 30 advisers left,” a YPG official told Asharq Al-Awsat.
“They will withdraw as soon as they are no longer needed,” he explained when asked about the deadline on which all YPG troops would exit the northern city.
YPG units did not seek territorial control post defeating ISIS by the end of 2016, he added.
The internationally-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which includes YPG troops, has long supported the formation of Manbij’s civilian council.
A meeting joining a US-led Coalition delegation and the Manbij military council was held in the past few hours—however, YPG forces were filled in on the results of US-Turkish talks in Ankara last week.
“We had about 300 YPG fighters, but the number is being gradually reduced, only advisers are left, about 30 advisers,” the YPG official, speaking under the condition of anonymity, added.
He went on explaining that all advisers are mainly involved with training Manbij military council officers.
Manbij’s military council encompasses between five to six thousand fighters.
“Advisers will withdraw to the east of the Euphrates to participate in battles for terminating ISIS soon after they conclude their mission in Manbij,” the official added.
The roadmap endorsed by Ankara and Washington for Manbij, which is located near Syria’s northern border with Turkey, stipulates that the two nations jointly maintain security and stability there.
Turkey sees the YPG as a terrorist group and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade insurgency on Turkish soil. Washington views the YPG as a key ally in the fight against ISIS.
On the other hand, diplomatic sources said that the extent of success in implementing the US-Turkish Manbij plan will test the chances of returning US-Turkish confidence and keeping President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from President Vladimir Putin who is betting on widening the NATO rift.
Putin is seeking to make a sales deal for Russia’s S-400 missile system to the Turkish army, which is in contact with Washington for high military technology.