Syrian government troops deployed to flashpoint city of Manbij


Syrian government troops deployed to flashpoint city of Manbij

Bill Van Auken

29 December 2018

The Syrian government announced Friday that its troops had entered the northeastern city of Manbij in an apparent bid to forestall a Turkish invasion aimed at driving out the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia.

The YPG, which has served as the Pentagon’s principal proxy ground force in controlling nearly a third of the Syrian territory near the Turkish border, is regarded by the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a branch of the Turkish Kurdish PKK, against which Turkey’s security forces have waged a bloody, decades-long counterinsurgency operation.

Erdogan vowed earlier this month that the Turkish military would intervene to push the YPG back from the border. US President Donald Trump’s December 19 announcement that he was ordering the withdrawal of all 2,000-plus US troops from Syria and leaving the military campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Ankara’s hands appeared to open the door to a Turkish intervention and a broader scramble for control of northeastern Syria, which consists largely of sparsely populated desert, but also contains the country’s main oil and natural gas reserves.

In a statement posted on Twitter, the YPG said that it had invited the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad “to send its armed forces to take over these positions and protect Manbij in the face of Turkish threats.” The tweet, which was sent in the morning, was subsequently deleted and then reposted later in the day, likely reflecting the tensions between the YPG and its US military patrons following Trump’s announcement.

While the Syrian government issued a statement saying that its troops had entered Manbij, a city of approximately…

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