US says will protect Manbij against Turkish attacks – reports

Army Gen. Joseph Votel (AP Photo/Robert Burns)

MANBIJ (Komnews) – US Central Command General Joseph Votel has promised the defence of Manbij from any possible attacks by Turkey and Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) groups, according to reports.

In a visit to the autonomous region in northern Syria (Rojava) on Friday, which was reported by Kom News, General Votel met with Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) officials in a four hour meeting.

Speaking to AFP, SDF spokesperson Talal Silo commented on the meeting saying, “We talked about the coordination between the SDF and Washington and increasing support for the SDF. They promised us heavy weapons for the upcoming phases. The results [of the meeting] were positive. We discussed the Wrath of Euphrates operation and shared developments in the military sphere.”

Silo called the meeting “a confirmation of American support for our forces.”

According to a senior SDF source who spoke to AFP, “Votel confirmed the coalition’s commitment to protecting Manbij from any attacks waged by Turkey or supported by it, as part of its previous commitment to protecting the area.”

The same source also said they hadn’t discussed opening corridors for Turkish-backed forces to enter areas under SDF control, something Turkish officials proposed as part of a plan to lead the Raqqa operation to capture the Islamic State (IS) stronghold in Syria.

The operation is currently being carried out by the SDF, much to the annoyance of Ankara which views the force as being led by the YPG, a group it sees as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The US Central Command Twitter account shared several photos of recently trained Arab fighters and Manbij Military Council officials following Votel’s visit. According to unofficial figures the SDF is formed of 27,000 Kurdish and 23,000 Arab as well as smaller numbers of Syriac and Turkmen fighters. There are also thought to be several hundred US special forces involved in the operation.