Having invaded northern Syria last August, Turkish forces and their rebel allies have been very deliberate about occupying a large swathe of the Aleppo Province, and have been very public about their intention to go after Kurdish YPG forces as well as ISIS.
Today they seem to be making good on those threats, attacking Kurdish forces on the outskirts of the city of Manbij, a city which Turkey’s President Erdogan has long coveted taking from the Kurds, and which he described last week as Turkey’s “next target.”
Reports of fighting area centering around a string of villages west of Manbij, which are under the control of the “Manbij Military Council,” which is ultimately a YPG faction in everything but name. Heavy fighting and artillery bombardment are reported in the area.
Turkey’s position is that Kurds must not be allowed on the western side of the Euphrates River, which is where Manbij lies. The YPG seized Manbij from ISIS last year, with heavy backing from the US, and remains closely allied with US forces, which makes their open warfare with Turkey, a NATO member, hugely problematic for the US.
Turkey has been arguing the YPG are “terrorists,” and condemning US attempts to forestall fighting between the two sides. US officials maintain that there is no evidence the YPG is in any way a threat to Turkey, though Turkey’s long-standing hostility toward all things Kurd is going to be tough for the US to deal with going forward.