By Kasim Ileri
WASHINGTON (AA) - An operation to take the Manbij area in Syria along the Turkish border will be led by Syrian Arabs instead of YPG militants, a U.S. defense official told Anadolu Agency on Wednesday.
As Daesh militants press Syrian opposition groups north of Azaz, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) -- an alliance of anti-Daesh rebel groups dominated by the outlawed PKK’s extension in Syria, the YPG -- has taken on the Manbij pocket, a 98-kilometer (60-mile) long area controlled by Daesh.
Several reports from the region claimed that Turkey and the U.S. have agreed to allow SDF to clear Manbij of Daesh on the condition that Arab rebels control the city rather than Kurdish YPG fighters.
“It is not YPG. The Syrian Arab Coalition is currently leading the operations in Manbij,” the official told Anadolu Agency on the condition of anonymity.
He declined to talk about any possible deal with Turkey but said the U.S. has been in constant coordination with Ankara on the Manbij offensive.
He implied Turkey’s concerns have been taken into consideration, saying YPG militants will not take control of the city.
“There will be some YPG and other anti-ISIL elements,” he said. “YPG has a very limited role in support of the operations. They are not the ones who will enter Manbij and clear the city but they will take part in the efforts there.”
Turkey has voiced concerns about separatist motivations of the PYD terrorist organization and its military wing, the YPG, as wells as their link to PKK terrorists.
The PYD and YPG have been trying to connect its forces in the northeast and northwestern corner of Syria.
The U.S.-led coalition has conducted 18 airstrikes against Daesh since Tuesday, according to Central Command that said in a report that the strikes destroyed six separate tactical units, two headquarters, two logistics facilities, an assembly area, weapons cache and several other elements of the militant group.