US officials are loudly cheering the success of an offensive by the Kurdish YPG and its allies, with embedded US special forces, against the ISIS city of Manbij, with Brett McGurk reporting today that the town is “completely surrounded with no way out.”
Manbij was the primary route by which ISIS has been smuggling weapons and fighters in from neighboring Turkey. They cross in through Jarabulus, and move on through Manbij into Raqqa. There are alternate routes, but US officials say they would be more dangerous for ISIS fighters.
Absent from US crowing about the offensive is any reports of how many civilians are also trapped in the town “with no way out” at this point, though the UN reported a few days ago that the offensive could displace over 200,000 civilians from the area.
Ultimately, the loss of Manbij probably won’t seriously threaten the use of Jarabulus as an ISIS crossing point from Turkey, and Turkey has warned that Kurdish attacks on Jarabulus itself would be a “red line” that would lead to them joining the war.