US service members will begin training Turkish forces for joint patrols near the volatile Syrian city of Manbij within the next three days, according to US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Voice of America reported.
“I would say within 72 hours actually. Very soon, could be sooner,” Mattis told reporters on a military aircraft on Thursday.
Mattis said US training gear and equipment, along with the training officers, were now in Turkey.
The training is needed before US and Turkish forces operating near Manbij can combine their patrols.
Right now, the two forces are conducting “coordinated but independent” patrols, according to the Pentagon.
It is unclear when US and Turkish forces would start conducting the joint patrols in Syria once the training of Turkey’s troops is complete.
The city of Manbij hosts Kurdish militia fighters. Washington supports the Kurdish fighters there, while Ankara says they are anti-Turkey terrorists.
The Pentagon says the purpose of the patrols is to support “long-term security in Manbij” and uphold its commitments to NATO ally Turkey.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu confirmed the “joint patrols” on Sunday, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.
“Though there are few days of delay in the schedule, the process is continuing without a hitch. We are now entering a period of joint patrols,” Çavuşoğlu said during a press conference with his Serbian counterpart, Ivica Dacic in Ankara.
He added there are no “interruptions” in the military efforts that are being conducted with the US.Kurds
Turkey and the US are currently experiencing rocky relations after Washington imposed sanctions on two Turkish ministers when American pastor Andrew Brunson, who faces terrorism-related charges in Turkey, was not released.