Kurdish militias said they are determined to protect Syria’s Manbij against Turkish military and Ankara-backed rebels if they try to retake the strategically important Syrian city.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance, which is dominated by the Kurdish YPG militia, is supported by the US as the latter uses them in its war against ISIS.
Turkey sees the YPG as an extension of Kurdish PKK militants who have waged a three-decade insurgency in southeastern Turkey.
Air strikes carried out by the US-led coalition and a long fight by the SDF forces ended in recapturing Manbij from the control of the Islamic State (ISIS) group last year.
The SDF, backed by US coalition, launched also a campaign with the ultimate aim of capturing Raqqa in November and succeeded in encircling the city. However, Turkey was angered with these developments and sought, therefore, to cast the YPG out of Manbij and to be the efficient part in Raqqa battle.
We Will defend Manbij
The commander of Kurdish fighters in Manbij, Adnan Abu Amjad, said that his forces will fight to defend any move by Turkey to take over the area.
Erdogan said he wants to set up a safe zone near the Turkish border and clear all Kurdish forces from the area.
Abu Amjad said: “If Erdogan wants to come to Manbij, it’s his business, but we will defend our city with all the strength we can find. As Syrian people, we’ll resist any interference in our internal affairs.”
Ilham Ehmed, co-leader of the Syrian Democratic Council, also declared similar comments.
“The military council and locals will mount fierce resistance if Manbij is attacked,” she told Sputnik news.
“Turkey has chosen the administration created in northern Syria as a direct target for its attacks. Turkey has openly stated that it is determined to launch an attack on the territory controlled by Kurdish forces. … Turkey has said that it plans to capture Manbij and Afrin after al-Bab,” she noted. Ankara has said that its Operation Euphrates Shield is primarily aimed at fighting ISIS, “however, there are no ISIS fighters in Manbij,” she added.
Ilham Ehmed suggested that Turkey is “not interested” in bringing peace and stability to Syria.
“Ankara is trying to take Syria under control by seizing Manbij and other regions. This lies at the heart of its intervention and combat operations in Syria,” she said.
Manbij in the next target
Turkey’s military operation in Syria named Euphrates Shield, which was launched last August to drive Islamic State militants from its border and prevent Kurdish fighters from gaining ground and strengthening their positions, has changed the balance of power in northern Syria and added more tension to the already complicated area.
have managed to retake the ISIS stronghold of Jarabulus, alongside with al-Rai to the west and Dabiq city. Now their operation is focused on al-Bab as the last major stronghold for ISIS in northern Syria.
Turkey’s operations against ISIS aim at ending the group’s existence near its borders and the group’s ability to pose threat to its internal peace.
Turkey also attacked the YPG Kurdish militias ordering them to withdraw from East Euphrates region. The Turkish military also shelled Kurdish militias’ positions in northern Syria while the rebel forces clashed with them in many incidents and forced them to withdraw behind the Euphrates river.
Erdogan has made it clear it many times that his country’s operations aim at fighting the Kurdish militias as well as defeating ISIS, as both of them resemble a threat to Turkey’s internal security.
“Al-Bab is about to be captured. Manbij and Raqqah are next,” Erdogan said, adding their number one priority was to form a safe zone in the country.
Erdogan reiterated that Turkey does not have any plans to stay in Syria after the operations end, saying Turkey’s only goal is to “clear this region of terrorism”.
“The goal is to establish a safe, terror-free zone of 4 to 5,000 kilometers, and to prevent migration from Syria, and ensure the return of [Syrian] people who live now in our camps.
“Of course, in order to do this, we also would like to almost build new cities there. I have shared this with Mr. Trump and coalition forces, including Germany in particular,” he added.
“The next step is to establish a no-fly zone,” Erdogan said. “Then they [the Syrians] will be able to establish their national army and feel themselves safe.”
The Syrian crisis began as a peaceful demonstration against the injustice in Syria. Assad regime used to fire power and violence against the civilians and led to armed resistance. 450.000 Syrians lost their lives in the past five years according to UN estimates, and more than 12 million have lost their homes.