The US on Monday announced that American troops have been deployed in the northern Syrian city of Manbij, which Turkey said was the next target after al-Bab, for a “visible symbol that the enemy is cleared out,” Reuters reported.
“This is a new effort, this is the first time we’ve had to do something like this, which is to ensure that we are out there as a visible symbol that the enemy is cleared out of Manbij,” Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters.
Stating that a small number of forces had been stationed inside and to the west of Manbij starting last week to be a “visible sign of deterrence and reassurance,” Davis added:
“There is not a need for others to advance on it in attempts to ‘liberate’ it.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced at a press conference in Ankara on Feb. 28 that Turkey’s next target in Syria would be Manbij, which has become a subject of disagreement between Washington and Ankara.
“We told this to our American friends. The PYD [the Kurdish Democratic Union Party] and YPG [Kurdish People’s Protection Units] should move to the east of the Euphrates; the area should be left to the locals of Manbij,” said Erdoğan.
“Now it is time for Manbij, which belongs to the Arabs, not the PYD or YPG.”
AFP released photographs of the convoy of US armored vehicles driving near the village of Yalanlı, on the western outskirts Manbij, on March 5.
Pentagon spokesman Capt. Davis did not give a specific number of US forces involved but said it was fewer than dozens and was carried out under existing authority, Reuters reported.
Turkey’s Defense Minister Fikri Işık said on Sunday that the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the PYD and the Syrian regime have been cooperating on the city of Manbij.
“One of the most important priorities of Turkey is to prevent the PYD, which is close to committing a genocide against the Kurds, from creating a territory. It will absolutely not be allowed to create a sovereign territory. Turkey will at all costs not allow the PYD to unite the cantons [Afrin, Kobani, Jazira],” said Defense Minister Işık.
The Turkish government considers the YPG crossing to the western bank of the Euphrates, where Manbij sits, a “red line.”