Soldiers from Turkey and the U.S. continue joint training on combined patrols in Manbij, northern Syria, the Turkish military said yesterday.
The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) shared on its Instagram account two pictures where Turkish and U.S. soldiers are seen together during training. As part of the Manbij agreement reached by Turkey and the U.S., the first group of U.S. personnel arrived in Gaziantep, southeastern Turkey on Oct. 2 for training, and National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said last week that following the completion of training, common united patrolling activities will begin in an effort to establish stability and security in the region and to prevent terrorist activities in the future.
Turkey had long been warning the U.S. against what Turkish officials have described as a "reckless attitude in northern Syria's Manbij" and its arms support to the PKK's Syrian affiliate, the People's Protection Units (YPG). Turkey repeatedly stressed that supporting terror groups with arms would eventually create serious security threats. Relations with the U.S were heading for a rupture before the two sides reached an agreement that focuses on the withdrawal of terrorist YPG/PKK forces from the city to stabilize the region.
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.
Meanwhile, sources on the ground highlighted last week that terrorist groups were digging trenches and embankments around the city. Satellite pictures of the city also revealed that the U.S.-backed YPG forces dug 29.3 kilometers of trenches around the city instead of withdrawing from the city, despite the Manbij agreement. As Turkey's patience is wearing thin regarding the existence of terror groups in neighboring Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan signaled last week a military operation against the PKK terror organization and the YPG in areas they control east of the Euphrates River.
Speaking at a military graduation ceremony in the southwestern province of Isparta held for Turkish special forces, Erdoğan said: "With the support of our commandos, hopefully, we will soon destroy the terror nests east of the Euphrates River."
'U.S. starting dangerous game in Syria'
In relation to the U.S.' support to the YPG and its activities in the region, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the U.S. is initiating a dangerous game. He underlined that the U.S. apparently aims to establish a semi-state in the region for groups it continues cooperating with. Commenting on the YPG's existence in the region, Pyotr Tolstoy, deputy speaker of the lower house of parliament, told Turkish journalists in Russia last week that "Russia has been supporting Syria's territorial integrity" and added that they are aware of some intentions of forming independent regions supported by some countries.
The YPG is the dominant group in the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which controls almost all the territory east of the river comprising some one-third of the territory of Syria, except for the Assad regime-controlled area near Deir ez-Zour and the Daesh-held area near the Iraqi border. The SDF also controls the districts of Manbij and Tabqah on the right bank of the river.