Middle East

Washington, Ankara in Secret Agreement: US Forces to Remain in Manbij, Kurds to Leave

Russian media reported that the Kurdish forces will be forced to withdraw from Manbij, Raqqa and Eastern Euphrates after occupation of Afrin by Ankara and allied militants and following a secret agreement between the US and Turkey as Washington plans to extend mission in Syria.

Russian media outlet Nezavisimaya Gazetta reported on Sunday that clashes between the Kurds and the Turkish army will likely extend to Manbij, Raqqa and the Eastern banks of the Euphrates, adding that the Kurds have retreat from the battlefield in Afrin after several days of heavy clashes and probably after the recent agreement between Ankara and Washington.

The Russian outlet added that the Kurdish units will not be allowed to remain in Manbij, and “these will be the US and Turkish military forces that will be deployed in the region.

The report claimed that the Americans have betrayed their allies (Kurds) to establish military presence of the US forces in the security region along the Turkish-Syrian borders, adding that Ankara seeks to entrust the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) terrorists group with the rule over Afrin.

The Ankara-affiliated FSA will turn Afrin into a region like Idlib which hosts all terrorist groups stationed in Syria.

US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said on Thursday Washington has no intention to leave Manbij despite Turkey’s pledge to clear Kurdish fighters from the strategic town in Northern Syria.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also said he told both US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin that “Turkey will not step back in Syria”, vowing that the ongoing campaign in Afrin will be expanded to other parts of the war-torn country, including Manbij.

The Turkish military, along with the FSA, launched “Operation Olive Branch” against Kurds in Afrin, and the Turkish leader vowed that operations “will not end in Afrin. Next are Idlib and Manbij”.

Erdogan stated that Turkey’s operations against Kurdish fighters are ongoing in various parts of Syria and Iraq.

Turkey’s Operation ‘Olive Branch’ kicked off on January 20 from air and ground around the area of Afrin in Syria’s Aleppo to oust the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara views as a terror organization and the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK).

A Pentagon official said in December 2017 the US military forces are poised to stay in war-ravaged Syria for “as long as we need to”.

“We are going to maintain our commitment on the ground as long as we need to, to support our partners and prevent the return of terrorist groups,” Pentagon Spokesman Eric Pahon stated.

The Department of Defense spokesman on Iraq and Syria also repeated Washington’s stance that the US and its allies are fighting the ISIL.

Referring to the “dark records of Washington in betraying its partners”, Analyst Seyed Mostafa Khoshcheshm said late January that “although an Ankara assault on Manbij might have seemed unpalatable to the US, given the formerly expressed views of Washington officials, the US administration’s performance on the ground in the Afrin battle and the US militaries’ inaction and lack of a strong and expressive policy displays that [US President Donald] Trump prefers to keep away from battle situations, specially against a NATO ally, making the United States’ future role in Syria foggy”.

He added that it’s not clear whether Turkey “would dare to raid Manbij while Americans are present in there. Any such move would mean declaring war on the US, and neither party seems to be really serious about a direct confrontation.

The US administration officials have stated plans to keep troops in Syria even after the defeat of ISIL. Washington was once justifying its deployment of ground troops in Syria, which violates the embattled nation’s sovereignty, by citing the need to fight ISIL, but now it has started mentioning Iran’s growing influence as its next excuse to remain in the war-ravaged country without a UN mandate or permission from the Damascus government.

A top Russian security official has stressed early March that the US has set up around 20 military bases in areas controlled by Kurdish militants it supports in Northern Syria, adding that Washington “provoked” Turkey into launching military operation in the regions by providing the Kurds with advanced weapons.

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