WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria last month has been met with no shortage of condemnation over the perception that America would be abandoning its Kurdish partners on the ground in the country. The move would open them up to an incursion from NATO ally Turkey, which has no love lost for the US partner in Syria.
The Kurds, however, wasted little time in making a deal with the government to prevent a Turkish onslaught, which, if anything like the most previous one – Operation Olive Branch in Afrin – would have been rife with pillaging and destruction.
Under the deal, Damascus is charged with the protection of Manbij, which Kurdish forces captured from Daesh militants in 2016. The fighters – known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) after the US asked the People’s Protection Unit (YPG) to rebrand – paved the way for the US Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, to set up base in the city.
«Considering the Arab Army’s duty and in a response to a call by the people of Manbij, the Syrian general staff announces that the Army has entered Manbij and raised the flag of the Syrian Arab Republic there,» Syrian General Ali Mayhoub said in a video statement from Damascus.
Footage published by Press TV shows Kurdish fighters vacating the city on Wednesday.
On Friday, two reports threw into question the Kurdish forces’ commitment to cooperating with the Syrian government.
The Kurdish news outlet Xeber 24 reported that the US has sent a convoy of trucks loaded with guns and ammo, as well as other field equipment, to the city of Al Hasakah, which is in the north and not too far from the border with Turkey. A US military plane also reportedly dropped off large volumes of weapons and equipment to Kobane, which sits on the border.
Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights – a one-man pro-rebel comms shop funded by the British government – said that nearly 200 US army trucks carrying weapons and equipment left Iraq on Saturday and has arrived at bases in Manbij, Raqqa, and Ein Issa.
A representative to Germany for the autonomous Kurdish region in the north and eastern parts of Syria, Ibrahim Murad, told Kurdistan 24 that Germany should institute a no-fly zone over the region.
Damascus and its partners, Iran and Russia, consider no-fly zones to be provocations while experts have repeatedly warned throughout the war that they increase the potential for open conflict between players like America and Russia.
“The German government should act to establish this no-fly zone. Why Germany? Because it is big and has its influence in the EU and world,” Murad told Kurdistan 24, warning that a Turkish attack could jeopardize the fight against Daesh.
“There are thousands of [Daesh] terrorists imprisoned in the self-administration’s jails and any attack will destabilize the situation and give them chance to run away,” Murad said. Following Trump’s announcement but prior to the deal between the Kurds and the Syrian government, Kurdish leaders discussed the prospect of releasing some 3,200 Islamic State prisoners, the New York Times reported.
In April, the Turkish Anadolu News Agency reported that the US was installing two new bases near Manbij days after the White House said the US military mission against Daesh in Syria «was coming to a rapid end.» July 2017, the same outlet published a graphic showing the locations of ten other US military bases.
Less than a week after Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria, Anadolu reported that two new military bases had been set up in Iraq, including one on the border with Syria and another within 100km.
Top Photo | This undated photo shows SDF rebels pictured with an assortment of rifles and other weaponry. Photo | SDF Press