U.S. military forces equipped the People's Protection Units (YPG) - the Syrian affiliate of the PKK terrorist organization - with heavy-duty vehicles in northern Syria's Manbij to ramp up the terrorists' digging of trenches and embankments surrounding the city.
According to information obtained by Anadolu Agency (AA) yesterday from local sources, the U.S. transported three bulldozers and an excavator accompanied by U.S. soldiers to the city for YPG forces, despite previous remarks by U.S. officials that there are almost no YPG forces in the city.
Gen. Joseph Votel, chief of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said last week that "My understanding is that most of the YPG, if not all of the YPG, is out of Manbij right now. But of course, as we continue in implementing the road map there are specific activities within that to ensure that is the case."
Contrary to the U.S. official's statement, recent media reports suggested that the YPG has been preparing for a likely Turkish operation to retain its control over the city since July. Satellite pictures of the city also revealed last week that U.S.-backed YPG forces dug 29.3 kilometers of trenches around the city instead of withdrawing from the city, despite the Manbij agreement.
The agreement was signed between Turkey and the U.S. in early June that foresaw a three-month timetable for the withdrawal of the YPG from the city and joint patrols to be conducted by the militaries of both countries.
In relation to the issue, National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar warned the U.S. on Tuesday over mounting presence of the YPG in the city by saying "the terror group must know that when the time and place comes, it will be buried in the trenches it has dug."
Akar also announced that despite all these complications, Turkish and U.S. soldiers began joint training on combined patrols in Manbij yesterday.
"As of today, the Turkish and U.S. armed forces began joint training on combined patrolling activities, which will be held in the region, as part of the Manbij road map and security principles," he said.
The Manbij patrols are part of the road map inked by Ankara and Washington on June 18 to establish security and stability in the city.
Ankara and Washington have been at odds due to U.S. support for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which are dominated by the YPG under the pretext of fighting Daesh.
The U.S. had provided military training and given truckloads of military support including radar systems to the YPG, despite Ankara's security concerns and warnings that the group is linked to the PKK terrorist organization. The weapons are ultimately transferred to the PKK and used against Turkey. The PKK has been waging a terror campaign since the 1980s, and is held responsible for the deaths of some 40,000 people, including women and children.