ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The United States-led Coalition against the Islamic State (IS) on Thursday confirmed the start of joint Turkish-American patrols near Manbij.
“Coalition and Turkish military forces started combined patrols northwest of Manbij today,” Army Colonel Sean Ryan, Spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), said in a public statement.
“Patrols complement local security structure and stability in Manbij, imperative to sustaining momentum to defeat-IS operations in eastern Syria, including the safe and voluntary return of refugees.”
Asked if the joint patrols would enter Manbij, the Spokesperson told Kurdistan 24: “They will not enter Manbij city proper.”
Kurdish news agency Hawar News reported that the joint patrols took place 19 kilometers from the city with three US and three Turkish vehicles, starting from the village of Arab Hassan.
Reporters were not allowed to get close to the joint patrols. Moreover, both fighters from the Manbij Military Council (MMC) and the Turkish-backed Euphrates Shield forces were prevented from being present on the front line.
“As professional NATO forces, the recent rehearsals conducted by Turkish and Coalition forces provide an important foundation,” Maj. Gen (UK) Christopher Ghika, Deputy Commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, stated.
“Our interoperability ensures our ability to work together to continue to protect the civilians of Manbij in our common goal of the enduring defeat of Da’esh [Arab acronym for IS],” he added.
Maj. Gen Ghika said the coalition is “fully supportive of the roadmap and the combined joint patrols, and [are] confident they will be very effective.”
A designated and bilaterally agreed upon ground force commander will lead the joint patrols, the US-led coalition said. The joint patrols follow rehearsals where the two military forces addressed safety and familiarization with combined tactical operations.
Turkish and coalition military forces have conducted over 60 independent, coordinated patrols outside of Manbij since June 2018.
Since Tuesday, Turkish armed forces carried out cross-border shelling near Tal Abyad and Kobani. Earlier on Thursday, a 10-year-old child was allegedly killed in a village near Tal Abyad.
Moreover, in the evening, heavy machinegun fire targeted the villages of Carikhli and Koraly, west of Kobani.
Nicholas A. Heras, a Fellow at the Center for a New American Security, told Kurdistan 24 Turkey’s attack on Tal Abyad and Kobani was “a message to the United States that it has to remove the SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces] from all of Turkey’s border region, even east of the Euphrates.”
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “Erdogan is telling the Americans that he can make their stabilization strategy to work by, with, and through the SDF a living hell,” Heras added. “The joint patrols only delay Erdogan, they don’t stop him.”
According to Diliman Abdulkader, the Director of the Kurdistan Project at the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), the joint US-Turkish patrols along Manbij can benefit the SDF.
“The patrols can allow the US to keep Turkey in line especially in the areas of recent Turkish bombardments against the SDF,” Abdulkader told Kurdistan 24.
“The US can further pressure Turkey. If the Turks want to be involved in the security of Manbij, they must fully stop the threats against its partners, the SDF, particularly the Kurds.”
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany