ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Turkey is aware that the Kurdish forces stationed in Syria’s Manbij are no danger to it, but despite that, it persists with threats to attack the east of the Euphrates, a Syrian Kurdish official told Kurdistan 24 in a recent interview.
Shervan Derwish, a spokesperson for the Manbij Military Council (MMC), reiterated that the MMC is “not a danger” to Turkey.
“Turkey knows very well that we are not a threat to them,” he said. “We had our hopes that we would have relations with Turkey as a neighboring country.”
The MMC was established in April 2016 with the goal to liberate Manbij from the Islamic State. It consists of a coalition of forces, which includes armed groups that were part of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighting the Syrian government.
According to Derwish, the MMC fighters once fought on the same side as Turkey and were supported by Ankara against the Syrian regime.
Manbij was liberated from the Islamic state in August 2016 and is now safe, the spokesperson noted. “But since the future isn’t clear, people are scared,” he added, especially after US President Donald Trump’s initial statement in December of a troop withdrawal.
“This was followed by threats from Turkey and the regime,” Derwish explained. “The people were worried about themselves and their properties.”
At the moment, nothing has changed on the ground in Manbij as US troops still patrol the area while Trump recently agreed to keep a residual force in Syria.
“The situation in Manbij is better before the period when the US announced they would withdraw their troops,” Derwish said.
“However, there are still attacks and provocations by the Euphrates Shield groups, but in general the situation is better.”
The threat of Islamic State sleeper cells continues in Manbij. On Saturday, a suicide attack left at least eight casualties. In January, another suicide bombing in Manbij left 19 people dead, including four Americans, among them two US soldiers.
Local officials in Syria and also the former US envoy for the US-led coalition against ISIS, believe America should continue to support the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to prevent an Islamic State resurgence.
“The last thing we should do is plan to withdraw 90 percent of the American force. Makes no sense. The SDF needs more support right now, not less,” Brett McGurk, the former US coalition envoy, tweeted on Saturday.
Aside from worries of an Islamic State resurgence, Turkey continues to threaten an invasion in Manbij to clear the area of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), who make a majority of the SDF. Turkey considers the YPG a “terrorist group” for its alleged ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Derwish said the Kurdish forces have a right to defend themselves if Turkey attacks.
“We don’t attack, but if they attack us, we will respond.”
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany