Speaking to reporters today in Ankara, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says his government expects the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) which captured Manbij a few days ago to quickly withdraw from the city and leave it under the control of locals.
The US-backed SDF captured the city after two and a half months of fighting, along with heavy US airstrikes that killed hundreds of civilians. Cavusoglu said that the US had promised when the fight began that the SDF would withdraw back across the Euphrates River immediately following the Manbij operation.
Turkey has long objected to offensives by the Syrian Kurds, and has repeatedly warned that any offensives on the west side of the Euphrates would “cross a red line” in the war. This has meant the vast majority of ISIS territory in Aleppo is effectively off limits for the SDF.
It appears that the Manbij operation, which spanned the river, came with US assurances meant to keep Turkey from attacking the Kurdish forces. Whether the Kurds will stick to this and withdraw, and how ISIS will be kept from simply retaking the city, remains to be seen.
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