By Kasim Ileri
WASHINGTON (AA) – Arab fighters constitute 85 percent of the force conducting an offensive on the Manbij pocket in Syria, a U.S. defense official said Friday.
“These operations are being led by Manbij Military Council, a component of Syrian Arab Coalition which is an indigenous Arab force from Manbij seeking to reclaim their hometown from ISIL,” Col. Pat Ryder said during a teleconference, noting inaccurate reports that YPG fighters are leading the offensive.
Approximately 3,000 Arabs are involved in the fight in the 60-mile (98-kilometer) long area along the Turkish border.
According to the spokesman, a small number of YPG elements are providing logistical rather than combat support.
He said the number of YPG forces involved in the operation is approximately 450 to 500.
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.
Ryder said that if the operation in Manbij succeeds it would free as many as 40,000 civilians from Daesh control.
“Since the start of offensive on May 30, with the support of more than 55 airstrikes in the last week, Arab led forces have already secured westerns lodgments of the Euphrates River extending the forward lines of troops over 100 square kilometers [38 square mile],” he said.
One the Manbij area is secured, it will cut off militants' key lines of communication between the Turkish border and Raqqa, the self-declared capital of Daesh.
“It will also impede ISIL’s ability to threaten Turkey and the rest of Europe,” according to Ryder.