Washington signaled that it will continue to cooperate with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is dominated by PKK-affiliated groups in northern Syria, amid Turkey's expectations to cast them aside in the Manbij road map.
The U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis said on Wednesday that they won't simply cast that organization aside, referring to the SDF.
"Because it is critical in defeating Daesh, which we've still not defeated," Mattis said.
He added that the SDF is the only organization at the time able to thwart and defeat Daesh in "very, very tough fighting."
Turkey's highly voiced criticism of partnership between the People's Protection Units (YPG) and the U.S., led to the Manbij deal and the two countries agreed to monitor the withdrawal of the YPG from the Syrian town.
The Manbij road map was announced after a meeting in Washington on Monday between Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The process will involve a 10-day preparation period that started Tuesday June 5, before YPG militants start withdrawing. They will withdraw in 20 days, after which Turkish forces will be deployed to pacify the region and train local forces to establish security. The YPG will be withdrawing east of the Euphrates River.
Speaking to reporters yesterday, Çavuşoğlu highlighted, "Syria needs to be cleared from these terrorists, this is the aim of the road map. As long as there is the YPG, there will not be stability."
The foreign minister added that the responsibility belongs to the U.S. to clear these areas from terrorists.
Ankara has been long criticizing the U.S. on the grounds that Daesh cannot be defeated by supporting another terrorist group such as the SDF, which is predominantly led by the PKK-affiliated YPG.
Ankara stresses that U.S. arms support to these terrorist groups will create further instability in the region and calls for withdrawal of the groups from Syria in order to pave way for returning Syrians to their country.
In relation to the issue, Mattis said that the U.S. is working with Turkey to and tries to address its concerns.
However, he also added, "There's no doubt that we are, at the same time, defeating ISIS. And it's a very difficult job, I'll be the first to admit."
Commenting on Turkey's expectations from the U.S. in a televised interview, Deputy Prime Minister Fikri Işık stated on Thursday that, "The strategic U.S. move that would satisfy Turkey would be to stop considering [the Democratic Union Party] PYD/YPG as a partner in the region [...] and to cut off all ties completely on the field." "This will pave the way for new developments in the region. It will [also] bring the relations between Turkey and the U.S. to a more positive level in every field," he added.
U.S. military support for the YPG/PKK terrorist group in Manbij has strained ties between Ankara and Washington and has led to fears of military clashes between the two NATO allies since there are roughly 2,000 U.S. troops in the city. On Jan. 20, Turkey initiated Operation Olive Branch in northern Syria to clear Daesh and PKK-linked terrorist groups, including the YPG and SDF, from the region. After liberating Syria's Afrin on March 18 alongside the Free Syrian Army (FSA), Turkish forces pressed on toward the goal of eliminating all terrorists west of the Euphrates. The U.S., however, along with France, has intensified its military presence in Manbij, providing increased support for YPG-stocked SDF forces in northern Syria.
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