By Kasim Ileri
WASHINGTON (AA) – The Syrian Arab Coalition (SAC) has completed the first phase of the Manbij operation by securing the territory surrounding the northern Syrian city, U.S. Central Command announced Wednesday.
“After clearing Daesh from this area they are now ready for the second phase to liberate the city itself,” according to a CENCTOM statement.
Syrian Arab Coalition is a group fighting Daesh in Syria under the umbrella of the Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance predominantly comprised of the Kurdish PYD that Turkey considers an offshoot of the PKK terror group in Syria.
With more than 3,000 fighters the group leads the operation in Manbij pocket, a 98-kilometer (60-mile) stripe of territory along the Turkish border.
According to the U.S. military, Arab fighters have secured the routes to and from Manbij.
“For the SAC civilian safety is a critical concern, and as a consequence people are returning to the already liberated inhabited villages,” the statement added.
Because Turkey has long expressed its concerns about separatist motivations of the PYD and its military wing, the YPG and that group’s effort to connect the self-declared Kurdish cantons in northern Syria, the U.S. assured Ankara that Arabs would take over the Manbij pocket that divides the PYD’s Afrin canton in northwest Syria from Kobani and Jazeera cantons in the northeast.
Central Command said that since the operation began two weeks ago, the U.S.-led anti-Daesh coalition has conducted more than 190 airstrikes in the vicinity of Manbij.
“The Manbij city operation, coupled with the coalition-supported Syrian moderate opposition efforts to clear Daesh from the Turkish border and the Maraa line, continues to attrite Daesh forces and minimize the threat to Turkey, the rest of Europe, and the United States,” the statement said.
The Maraa line refers to an area named by the coalition that lies between Maraa and Deir Rafat in Syria.
It is located near the front lines of the battle against Daesh militants who seek to control the two cities before capturing Azaz, which would give the group control of the northern Aleppo countryside.