Kurdish Forces Meet Turkish Demands, Leave Northern Syrian Town

Kurdish Forces Meet Turkish Demands, Leave Northern Syrian Town

FILE - Smoke and flame rise after what fighters of the Syria Democratic Forces said were U.S.-led airstrikes on the mills of Manbij where Islamic State militants are positioned, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, June 16, 2016.


A Syrian Kurdish militia withdrew its forces Wednesday from the strategic northern Syrian town of Manbij, three months after helping to free it from Islamic State control.

U.S. officials and commanders from the Kurdish People's Protection Units, known as the YPG, said the Kurdish force would head south to help in the fight for Raqqa, IS's de facto capital in Syria.

The move satisfies Turkish demands that YPG fighters move east of the Euphrates River. Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist organization and an extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.

Ankara fears that a strong Kurdish entity in northern Syria will empower Kurdish rebels in Turkey who are engaged in a bloody conflict with Turkish forces.

The YPG said it was turning control of Manbij over to a local military council trained by the Kurds with U.S military assistance.

"These forces now have military and security institutions and they can protect the people of Manbij from all dangers," the YPG said in a statement.

Kurdish Forces Meet Turkish Demands, Leave Northern Syrian Town

Manbij, Syria

IS driven out in August

Manbij is an Arab-majority town in Syria's Aleppo province that had been under IS rule since 2014. Backed by U.S. air support, Kurdish forces drove IS from the town in August.

Since then, U.S. officials have worked toward a peaceful transition that satisfied Turkish demands and left Manbij under local Arab control.

On Twitter, U.S. envoy Brett McGurk on Wednesday hailed the transition as a "milestone."

"All YPG units to depart Manbij and return east of Euphrates after local units complete training to maintain security after ISIL," said McGurk, the special presidential envoy for the U.S.-backed coalition to counter IS.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters Wednesday before heading to Pakistan that he was sure the U.S would make good on plans to transition Manbij from Kurdish control.

"They said they would keep that promise. And we expect and hope that they will do so," he added.

Turkey has begun a separate operation against IS fighters in Syria. Turkey-backed Syrian rebels have closed in on IS fighters in the town of al-Bab in Aleppo province. The anti-IS rebels cleared the border town of Jarablus from IS fighters in September.

Part of U.S. strategy

Giving control back to Manbij locals was as much a part the U.S. strategy as mollifying Ankara's objections to the YPG, analysts said.

"The YPG withdrawal from Manbij was mandated by the U.S. mainly to keep with the schedule of building up local security forces from Manbij to hold the city and its surrounding areas," said Nicholas A. Heras, a Middle East researcher at the Center for a New American Security in Washington.

"Turkey's opposition to the YPG is built into the U.S. strategy, but it does not guide the U.S. strategy," he said.

Kurdish Forces Meet Turkish Demands, Leave Northern Syrian Town

FILE - A fighter from the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) poses for a photo at sunset in the Syrian town of Ain Issi, some 50 kilometers north of Raqqa, during clashes between IS group jihadists and YPG fighters, July 10, 2015.

The withdrawal from Manbij was made "in order to allow the YPG to continue to be a leading component of the SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces] displacement force to remove [IS] from areas closer to Raqqa," Heras said.

The Kurdish-led offensive on Raqqa was launched two weeks ago.

With the U.S. air support, the forces have made significant advances, pushing IS from much of the northern countryside of Raqqa. They are reportedly 35 kilometers from Raqqa city's limits.

VOA's Uzay Bulut contributed to this report from Washington.



Add Comment

all comments

  Other news

more
Ant and Decís Ant McPartlin moves mum in following rehab stint as he admits marriage to wife Lisa Armstrong is 'under strain'

Ant and Decís Ant McPartlin moves mum in following rehab stint as he admits marriage to wife..

19-Aug, 09:20

The Saturday Night Takeaway host recently left rehab after receiving...

Russia knife attacker wounds seven in Surgut

Russia knife attacker wounds seven in Surgut..

19-Aug, 06:51

Seven people have been wounded in a knife attack in the Russian city of...

Buying a home? Strategies for lowering your closing costs

Buying a home? Strategies for lowering your closing costs..

19-Aug, 15:36

Image source: Getty Images. Buying a home is likely to be the biggest...

Binky Felstead's baby India is the cutest playing with daddy Ė see the snap!

Binky Felstead's baby India is the cutest playing with daddy Ė see the snap!..

19-Aug, 12:00

by Sophie Hamilton Born in Chelsea Star Binky Felstead has shared the...

Tesla provides first look at cheaper Model 3 sedan

Tesla provides first look at cheaper Model 3 sedan..

09-Jul, 14:13

Electric automaker Tesla has produced its first Model 3 sedan, a highly...

Sports Bra Science: Can You Go Jiggle-Free?

Sports Bra Science: Can You Go Jiggle-Free?..

01-Mar, 01:38

In search of the perfect sports bra? You're not alone. And the bustiest...

New ads target House Republicans for supporting GOP health plan

New ads target House Republicans for supporting GOP health plan..

11-Apr, 10:32

A liberal organization is targeting a group of centrist House Republicans...

Immigration judge frees Mexican activist US trying to deport

Immigration judge frees Mexican activist US trying to deport..

09-Jun, 20:21

A Mexican woman was released from custody Friday while the U.S....