YPG suffers heavy losses in Manbij, US envoy mourns death of top YPG commander

DAILY SABAH
ISTANBUL
Published 07.06.2016 15:45
Updated 07.06.2016 15:54

While the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) reportedly makes further advances towards Manbij, it is only a matter of time until the People's Protection Units- (YPG) dominated group takes control of the DAESH-held city as the YPG suffering heavy losses on a daily basis.

As the group continues to make advances, the PKK's Syrian wing YPG, dominating the SDF, reportedly lost a high ranking commander in clashes on the outskirts of Manbij, whose death was mourned by Obama's special envoy for the anti-DAESH coalition, Brett McGurk.

"[Our] prayers are with FSA commander Abu Leyla who lost his life in ongoing operations to liberate his hometown of Manbij from ISIL [DAESH] terrorists," McGurk said on his official Twitter account on Sunday.

According to local sources, Abu Layla, a YPG commander, was shot dead in the clashes with DAESH militants around Manbij. "Abu Layla was shot by a DAESH sniper in the village of Khafya Abu Qalqal on the outskirts of Manbij while he was backing his fellows on Sunday," a statement released by the YPG said.

Even though Abu Layla was considered as a fighter for the FSA, the YPG said in the aforementioned statement that he is "one of the YPG's commanders."

The YPG-dominated group engages in rough clashes to take Manbij back from DAESH, suffering losses every day. Coffins of slain YPG militants arrive in Kobane.

Ankara reportedly follows the developments in the region very closely. "Today we are in Manbij, but tomorrow we will be in Efrin [also known as Afrin], and we will link all the three cantons [Jazira, Kobani and Afrin]," a top YPG commander recently said, which is strongly opposed by Ankara.

The PKK-affiliated group's heavy losses pushes it to search for new recruits which are mostly children. Sources from the Turkish-Syrian border said that the YPG was alarmed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's statement that Turkey is ready to "take matters into its own hands if needed," and the group is in efforts to recruit people between the ages 18 and 60 in the northern town of Kobani, which the Democratic Union Party (PYD) currently controls.

They also said that Turkish troops on the border province of Şanlıurfa have tightened measures due to recent developments in Kobani, which is located across the border from the province.

On Thursday, the U.S.-backed, YPG-dominated SDF crossed west of the Euphrates, to Ankara's great displeasure. Ankara reiterated multiple times that the YPG's crossing west of the Euphrates is a red line, regarded as an expansionist PYD policy under the pretext of fighting DAESH due to its close links with the PKK in terms of militant resources and weapons.

Some 3,000 Arab fighters were taking part in the offensive, backed by around 500 Kurdish militia members, U.S. Central Command spokesman Colonel Patrick Ryder said, adding that U.S. special forces were working "at the command and control level" in the operation.

Speaking at a press conference in Kenya Thursday, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the U.S. assures Turkey that mostly Arab forces will conduct the operation in Manbij instead of the YPG. "The main forces are Arab militants. That is what we were told," he said.

Washington's support to the YPG has troubled Turkish-U.S. relations to a great extent. McGurk paid a visit to PYD-controlled Kobani and held talks early in February. Photos of McGurk's visit to Kobani surfaced on social media. He was seen meeting with former PKK fighters in Syria over the weekend. Polat Can, known as the spokesman and one of the founders of the YPG, shared a photo on his Twitter account showing him presenting a plaque to McGurk.

Moreover, some U.S. soldiers were photographed with the insignia of the PKK-affiliated YPG on their arms. Ankara harshly criticized the U.S. for the incident, saying it could damage relations.

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that such images of an ally of Turkey are unacceptable. "Our advice for the U.S. is that they should wear DAESH, al-Nusra, and al-Qaida insignias when they go to other places in Syria and should wear Boko Haram insignias in Africa," he said, saying it was a double standard and hypocritical.

After Ankara sent stern messages to Washington over the YPG insignia dispute, there was a step back. The US troops wearing badges of the YPG was "unauthorized" and "inappropriate" and troops have been ordered to remove the badges, a military spokesperson said late May.

The incident drew reactions on social media in Turkey as well, with some accusing the Obama administration of having a two-faced strategy against Turkey, which is a NATO ally and recognizes the PKK as a terrorist organization.

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