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Future of Manbij amid Turkey-US differences on Syria

peration Olive Branch in Afrin has entered its 55th day, and with Turkish and Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces only a few kilometers from the city center, the People’s Protection Units (YPG) cannot give a big response, and villages are coming under the control of Turkey and the FSA one by one. Gendarmerie Special Operations and Police Special Operations units are also fighting alongside the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK).

From Jan. 20, when the operation began, until the past week, weather made for difficult conditions. Today, however, with the improvement of weather conditions, both air and ground attacks have reached the highest level of success. As a matter of fact, while the YPG’s top cadre is leaving Afrin one by one, Bashar Assad’s few Iran-backed militias have been either destroyed or have fled. The YPG is intercepting civilians who are trying to leave the city with in their vehicles in an attempt to use them as human shields.

So far 3,347 terrorists have been neutralized and 43 Turkish soldiers have died, but they have not stepped back from any of the territories for which these soldiers sacrificed their lives. Operation Euphrates Shield had showed Turkey’s friends and enemies that Turkey’s military power was still alive, and the Afrin operation has proven that Turkey is the most committed and most dynamic military in NATO.

So far, we have not seen any intervention from the U.S., Ankara’s so-called NATO ally, in order to prevent thousands of YPG terrorists from crossing into Afrin. Moreover, we have not forgotten the threats from Pentagon generals, who showed off strength with the press in Manbij, with one having said that if U.S. forces are attacked, then they will respond aggressively.

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has said Turkey and the U.S. came to an agreement on the situation of the YPG in Manbij and the east side of the Euphrates. This agreement could be a Fabian strategy by the U.S. This is because the previous administration of former President Barack Obama had also promised that the YPG would not go to west of the Euphrates. However, this agreement could also be a Fabian strategy by Turkey. This is because Turkey, especially through President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s statements, continues to convey the message that it will proceed on its way.

Moreover, now former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly heard about his dismissal from a tweet by President Donald Trump, and a State Department going through the most unstable days it has seen. And due to this Çavuşoğlu has postponed his visit to the U.S. scheduled for March 19 because of the latest developments.

It is also clear that every statement Trump makes on the Syrian policy is also discredited by the Pentagon’s actions. With such a situation, Turkey will obviously not trust U.S. promises.

It seems that in any case, April and May will witness historical days for Manbij in terms of Turkey’s alliance with the U.S.

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About the author

Hilal Kaplan

Hilal Kaplan

Hilal Kaplan is a political commentator, a columnist for Sabah and other news publishers. She's based in Istanbul, Turkey.

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