A convoy of Syrian troops has withdrawn from Manbij on Wednesday,
according to the Syrian Defense Ministry, which estimates that around
400 of them left. This was, by most accounts, materially all remaining
Kurdish forces in Manbij.
Manbij has been under the control of Kurdish forces and some small allied factions since 2017, when they seized the city with the support of US forces. Turkey’s military has announced intentions to invade the city, and large numbers of Turkish-backed rebels have gathered in the vicinity for this.
At present, the only forces known to remain inside Manbij are US and French troops, while a small number of Syrian Army forces are deployed on the outskirts, intending to prevent Turkey and the rebels from seizing the city.
What that’s going to look like with the Kurds’ withdrawal is unclear. Turkey wouldn’t really have a justification to invade the city anymore at this point, but has long coveted the Euphrates River-adjacent city as a staging area for attacks deeper into Syrian Kurdistan.
The US presumably doesn’t intend to contest any Turkish advance, though it’s not clear they’ll welcome the city being de facto seized by Islamist rebel groups that are aligned with Turkey.
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