The Kurdish YPG is dispatching substantial additional forces into the city of Manbij, captured earlier this month with substantial US backing, following Turkey’s invasion of the city of Jarabulus, and reports that the Turkish tanks are heading southward toward Manbij as well.
YPG officials, however, are eager to make semantic arguments about how the reinforcements that they sent to Manbij aren’t technically YPG once they reach Manbij, which allows them to argue to the US that they indeed aren’t in Manbij, despite clearly being in Manbij.
The argument centers on the laws of Rojava, the YPG-dominated Kurdish autonomous region in Syria. Rojava defines YPG territory as east of the Euphrates River, and Manbij is on the western shore of that river. Thus, once they cross that river, they can’t be YPG fighters anymore.
While the origins of this distinction within Rojava aren’t totally clear, it appears to be centered on a long-standing “red line” by Turkey that the YPG must never cross the Euphrates. After taking the city of Manbij, Turkey almost immediately invaded with an eye toward driving the Kurds back, but Kurdish officials seem eager to argue nothing is happening in Manbij, even as they send substantial additional forces into the area.