ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) - Turkey would 'certainly' consider a military operation to capture the town of Manbij in northern Syria if the United States did not commit to "its promise" of Kurdish forces' retreat from there, said the country's Defense Minister Fikri Isik on Tuesday.
"The PKK/PYD presence in Manbij must be ended. The US has given Turkey guarantees regarding the withdrawal of the PKK/PYD elements from Manbij," Isik told the privately-owned news channel, NTV.
Turkey's officials often interchangeably refer to the ruling Kurdish party in Syria, Democratic Union Party (PYD), its US-backed armed wing People's Protection Units (YPG) and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
Turkish troops are currently battling the IS in the vicinity of al-Bab in a months-long campaign that has cost them some 70 soldiers.
Supported by the US-led Coalition airstrikes and special operations soldiers on the ground, the YPG-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces took control of Manbij from the Islamic State (IS) group in August 2016, alarming Turkey over prospects of a second territorially contiguous Kurdish-ruled region on its southern border.
Shortly after, a then-US Vice President Joe Biden warned Kurdish forces to move back across the Euphrates River during an official visit to Ankara, the day Turkey launched an incursion into Syria against the IS with the primary goal of denying the Kurds further gains.
"They cannot, will not, under any circumstance get American support if they do not keep that commitment," declared Biden during a press conference with the Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim.
Biden's remarks led to a YPG announcement the day after, on August 25, that it had withdrawn from the town, and left it to the Manbij Military Council, a part of the Arab-Kurdish alliance of the SDF, a move confirmed by Secretary of State John Kerry.
But Turkey was not convinced. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that "Nobody should attempt to fool us," in September 2016 as Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu accused the then US President Barack Obama and Kerry of not keeping promises.
Since the emergence of YPG as the main US ally in Syria, Turkey opposed Kurdish expansion and set crossing the Euphrates as a "red line."
Erdogan previously called Manbij which he has repeatedly vowed to capture, "a town belonging to Arabs," saying Kurdish groups should not be there.
Editing by Ava Homa