Kurdish militia announce their complete withdrawal from Manbij, Syria

The Kurdish militia, which controls much of northeastern Syria, will withdraw its last “military advisers” from the city of Manbij. A decision that should help to reduce tensions between Turkey and the United States, two NATO allies.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the People’s Protection Units (YPG) say its fighters left the city in November 2016, and the last “military advisers” remained in the city to train local forces, grouped together in the Council. military of Manbij, will do the same.

The statement does not mention that this departure is announced the day after a meeting in Washington between the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mevlut Cavusoglu, which resulted in an agreement on Manbij.

The State Department confirmed that the two men “approved a roadmap and emphasized their mutual commitment to its implementation,” but without giving details.

The deal was also confirmed by Ankara, which also remained stingy in its comments. Minister Cavusoglu only stated on Tuesday that the “road map” in question must result in the disarmament of Kurdish militiamen in Manbij.

According to him, the measures agreed with the United States will begin to be implemented in 10 days, and will be deployed over the next six months. They will also eventually apply to other Syrian cities controlled by the YPG, such as Kobane and Raqqa, he said.

An area of contention for almost two years

Manbij has been at the heart of Turkey’s concerns in the region since the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of YPG militiamen and Arab fighters, successfully dislodged ISIS fighters in August 2016.

The SDF offensive was supported by the international military coalition led by the United States, but it also sparked Turkey’s suspicion that YPG, its main component, is a terrorist organization affiliated with the United States. Kurdish insurrection on his soil.

Mr. Cavusoglu immediately requested that the Kurdish militia withdraw from Manbij to take up positions east of the Euphrates River. Ankara had previously indicated that the presence of Kurds west of the Euphrates was for her a “red line” not to cross .

According to Turkey, the United States had pledged for their allies to withdraw from Manbij after their victory against IS, but that did not happen.

Shortly after the fall of Manbij, the Turkish army launched its own offensive on Syrian soil , relying on rebels grouped within the Free Syrian Army (ASL). They managed to occupy a vast strip of territory interspersed between the territory under the control of Kurdish militias in northeastern Syria and the Kurdish enclave of Afrine in the north-west.

US-Turkish tensions over Manbij kicked off in January, after the Turkish army and its ASL allies launched a second military offensive against the Afrine enclave to ‘to dislodge the YPG.

Less than a week later, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had threatened to extend the offensive to Manbij , or even to the Iraqi border.

Afrine finally fell in less than two months and the Turkish offensive was never extended outside this area. The fate of Manbij, however, has been the subject of several discussions between Ankara and Washington.