While President Trump suggested Thursday that the US could soon begin withdrawing troops from Syria, Col Thomas Veale announced later in the day that the US has actually sent more special forces into the country, to be deployed around the northern city of Manbij.
Col. Veale said the new deployments are a “protection measure” that is being done to ensure the safety of US coalition troops in the area. Overnight Thursday, two coalition soldiers, one American and one British, were killed outside of Manbij.
The deployments come amid threats by Turkish officials that they will soon “take action” against Manbij and any forces within that support the Kurdish YPG, which would include the US. In addition to the US deployment, the French government announced earlier this week they are sending troops to Manbij as well.
As Turkey steps up threats to attack Manbij, something they’ve been talking about for awhile, these US and French troops are likely meant to deter such a strike. Whether that’s going to happen remains to be seen, and Turkish officials were very clear that the French deployments just made the French troops another target.
Manbij was held by ISIS until late 2016, when Kurdish YPG forces captured it in a US-backed offensive. Turkey has demanded the Kurds leave the city, which is west of the Euphrates River, but the Kurds have not done so, and the US deployed troops within the city, apparently backing their control.