Turkey will exert maximum effort to prevent the PKK and its Syrian affiliates from establishing a terrorist corridor along its southern border at all costs as Ankara remains adamant on the issue. Having successfully delivered concrete results against terrorist groups in Operation Euphrates Shield and Operation Olive Branch over the course of the last two years in Syria, Turkey does not seem to have concluded its campaign in the region.
While the government expects the PKK's Syrian affiliate, the People's Protection Units (YPG), to fully withdraw from Manbij, Syria, as part of a joint agreement with the YPG's partner on the ground, the United States, Ankara says it reserves the right to do whatever is necessary if the terrorist group fails to keep its promise. Sharing information in regards to the situation in Manbij, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Friday that there might have been a delay of a couple of days in the implementation of the deal, yet the execution of the road map with the U.S. is still in process.
"There might be a delay now for a couple of days. There have not been any problems in implementing the road map," he said. The foreign minister referred to the agreement between Ankara and Washington on the road map for the future of Manbij and the withdrawal of the YPG.
Turkey and the U.S. previously agreed on a three-tier technical plan. In line with the road map, the YPG was due to leave Manbij on July 4. In the second part of the plan, Turkey and the U.S. are expected to start jointly monitoring the city after 45 days.
In the third part of the plan, a local government is to be established in 60 days following the agreement. A military council to establish security in the city and a city council to provide services will be established according to the population's ethnicity, which is 90 percent Arab. Meanwhile, the Turkish military on Friday completed its 10th round of patrolling the northern Syrian city of Manbij as part of a deal with the U.S. to rid the area of the YPG.
In a message posted on its official Twitter account, the Turkish General Staff said that both countries' forces conducted separate coordinated patrols in the area between the Operation Euphrates Shield region and Manbij. The first patrols by both Turkish and U.S. troops in the region began on June 18. Çavuşoğlu also said that withdrawal of the YPG has not been completed and that the patrols are being conducted in areas where the withdrawal of the terrorists has been completed.
Manbij has been controlled by the YPG terrorist group that has been the main ally of the U.S in its fight against Daesh since 2016. Turkey has long demanded that the U.S. avoid cooperation with the YPG, objecting to the YPG presence west of the Euphrates River, including the predominantly Arab town of Manbij.
Previously, U.S. military support for the YPG in Manbij had strained ties between Ankara and Washington and led to fears of military clashes between the two NATO allies since there were roughly 2,000 U.S. troops deployed in the city. The previous Barack Obama administration promised Turkey that all YPG elements would retreat east of the Euphrates. However, the promise was not kept. In addition, the United States provided the terrorist group with many tons of heavy weapons, ammunition and military equipment. Ankara also expects Washington to take back all weapons and ammunition given to the YPG.
Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu also stressed that after the YPG withdraws east of the Euphrates, Turkey will seek to work together with the United States to drain the terror swamp on the eastern parts of the Euphrates as well. The YPG's ultimate aim is to establish an autonomous region in northern Syria by connecting the northwestern Afrin canton to the Kobani and Jazeera regions in the northeast.
Thus, Turkey indicated that th
e presence of terror forces near its border constitutes a threat and has launched military operations and other efforts to rid the region of terrorists. To prevent the YPG from reaching its goal, Turkey carried out Operation Euphrates Shield in 2016 and Operation Olive Branch earlier this year.
Apart from Ankara's determined stance in Syria, the PKK threat on Iraqi soil is also being targeted. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said last month that an operation has started to eliminate the PKK in northern Iraq.
"We have neutralized thousands of terrorists both at home and abroad, and now we are removing Qandil as a threat and source of terrorism for our country and nation," Erdoğan said in mid-June.
The Qandil mountains, located roughly 40 kilometers southeast of the Turkish border in Iraq's Irbil province, are used as the headquarters of the PKK and its Iranian affiliate, the Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK).
Mount Qandil became the PKK's main headquarters in the '90s after it used the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon as training grounds for many years. Turkish security forces have so far crossed more than 30 kilometers into northern Iraq.