ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Turkish state-owned media on Sunday claimed the US is bolstering its military presence in Syria’s northern district of Manbij against the possibility of another incursion by Turkey following the fall of Afrin.
Approximately 300 US soldiers have arrived in Manbij, state media Anadolu Agency reported, adding that a convoy of armored vehicles and construction machines were also sent west of the Euphrates River.
The increase in special operations troops in the northern Syrian city was confirmed by Col. Thomas F. Veale, a U.S. military spokesperson and public affairs director for the global coalition against the Islamic State (IS), who said the recent deployment was a “protection measure to ensure the safety of coalition troops in the area.”
The US has about 2,000 soldiers in Syria who support local allies fighting IS, including the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), of which the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) make up the majority.
Following the fall of Afrin in Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava), Ankara threatened to head to Manbij to drive out the YPG, which it considers a ‘terrorist group’ and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
“Turkey will not hesitate to use initiative if terrorists in Manbij are not driven away,” a statement on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s presidential website last week read, warning the US whose special forces there in the northern Syrian town continue to work with Kurdish-led groups.
Turkey has also warned its other NATO ally, France, against increasing its military presence in Syria, asserting it would amount to “an invasion” as tensions rise over Manbij. French President Emmanuel Macron recently met with an SDF delegation, which included Kurds.
“If they intend to support terrorist elements or provide direct or indirect protection through their armed forces, this would be a truly calamitous step,” Turkey’s Defense Minister said during a visit to the country’s northeastern province of Giresun on Sunday.
The Turkish offensive into northern Syria has brought the NATO allies into a potential confrontation over support for the Kurdish group whom Ankara has vowed to keep fighting.