Syria Daily: Dispute Flares Over Turkish Presence in Manbij in North

Members of the Manbij Military Council issuing a statement, June 6, 2018

A Kurdish-linked military council has vowed that it will not accept any Turkish military deployment in Manbij in northern Syria.

Turkey announced on Monday that it had reached an agreement with the US on a “road map” for the removal of all Kurdish fighters from the city in eastern Aleppo Province, and on Tuesday the Kurdish militia YPG — the leading faction in the US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces which captured Manbij from ISIS in August 2016 — said that its remaining military “advisors” were withdrawing.

See Syria Daily, June 5: Turkey Says US Agrees to Kurdish Withdrawal from Manbij — But No Details Given

But yesterday a spokesman for the SDF-allied Manbij Military Council said, “We will not accept [Turkish presence].”

Sharfan Darwish said the council had not yet been officially informed of the Turkish-US arrangement: “We are awaiting high-level visits by coalition officials to inform us of the details, and for consultations and discussions.”

Ankara is saying that new military and municipal councils will be in place within 60 days.

The Council asserted in its statement, “The Turkish state has brought nothing but destruction to the region so far” and “seeks to eliminate the peace and change the demography in the region”.

It maintained:

Our Council has become capable of fulfilling training and defense missions by itself. At this time, an agreement was reached for the withdrawal of the YPG advisory group from Manbij.

Manbij has been the focus of Turkey’s attention since a Turkish-rebel offensive removed Kurdish forces from almost all of the Afrin canton in northwest Syria in March. The city is at the western limit of control by the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Party (PYD) and its YPG militia, including of much of the Kobani and Cezire cantons and the city of Raqqa, in the north and northeast of Syria.

Turkey considers the PYD and the YPG to be part of the Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK, which has fought Ankara’s security forces for more than three decades.

Turkey Promises Campaign Against PKK in Neighboring Iraq

The Turkish military is pledging a campaign to remove positions of the PKK in the Qandil Mountains in northern Iraq.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Tuesday that Turkey is determined to remove the PKK presence, “We are going to reach the source of terrorism before it comes to us.”

The military said that it has advanced about 25 km (16 miles) into northern Iraq towards Mount Qandil, and that special forces have deployed to join the offensive, which has established bases for tanks, helicopters, and armed drones.

Mount Qandil has been the PKK’s main headquarters since the 1990s after it moved from training grounds in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon.

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told journalists on Monday that Iraqi Kurdistan will cooperate with the campaign, “The PKK is an enemy of Erbil [the center of the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government as well.”

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Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.

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