The United States is not planning on withdrawing the forces it has deployed near the Syrian city of Manbij in northern Syria, despite warnings from Turkey that they should leave the region, announced US Central Command chief General Joseph Votel.
Pulling US forces from Manbij is “not something we are looking into”, the channel’s website reported Votel as saying on Sunday during a trip to the Middle East.
Turkey, which is waging a military offensive against Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria’s northwestern region of Afrin, has repeatedly said it will also drive the YPG from the mainly Arab town of Manbij, east of Afrin.
The United States has around 2,000 military personnel in northern Syria supporting an umbrella group of fighters, dominated by the YPG, which drove ISIS from its Syrian strongholds last year.
Turkey, which considers the YPG to be a terrorist organization, has called on Washington to end its military support for the group and to pull back from the Manbij region.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Saturday the United States “needs to break its link with (the) terrorist organization and make them drop their weapons completely. They need to collect the weapons they gave, they need to withdraw from Manbij immediately.”
Years after imposing their control in northern Syria away from regime influence, the Kurds are now demanding that regime forces intervene in Afrin to repel the ongoing Turkish offensive.
The Kurds oppose the reopening of regime institutions or the return of regime forces in the area, which Damascus is setting as a precondition for its intervention in Afrin, said observers.
Ankara launched operation Olive Branch nearly two weeks ago.