Stability and political transition in northern Syria's Manbij can only be achieved after the PKK's Syrian affiliate, the People's Protection Units (YPG), an oppressive terrorist organization causing problems in the city, is cleared from the region, local officials and experts said yesterday.
Speaking to Daily Sabah, Hasan al-Nifi, former chairman of the Manbij Political Committee, said that the people of Manbij and Ankara have a common goal: to eliminate the YPG from the city and later begin reconstruction and the political transition process.
U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), dominated by YPG terrorists, made it to Manbij in August 2016 after ousting Daesh terrorists who had captured the city from the moderate opposition in January 2014. Before the YPG, Manbij was administered by the Revolution Assembly, which represented 17 different groups and tribes. After the terrorist organization entered the city, the Manbij Military Council (MMC), a militia allied to the U.S.-backed SDF and YPG, began to impose its de facto administration in the city.
Munzer al-Sallal, head of the Stabilization Committee, noted in a panel organized by the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA), that the MMC, which Western powers try to indicate is a council composed of local people, is actually headed by YPG forces and used as a tool to recruit people for their terrorist activities.
Noting that once security is established in the city, they will need human resources, namely the forcefully displaced people of Manbij, Sallal said, however, people cannot return to their hometown as the terrorist organization considers displaced people as criminals. Turkey opposes the YPG's presence in Manbij, a major sticking point in strained relations between Turkey and the U.S., due to the latter's support of the group under the pretext of fighting Daesh. The YPG has organic organizational and operational links with the PKK. The PKK has claimed the lives of more than 40,000 people in its 30-year terror campaign against Turkey. The U.S., however, while listing the PKK as a terrorist group, provided military training and given truckloads of military support to the YPG despite Turkey's security concerns.
To assuage the security concerns of Turkey, Washington and Ankara reached the Manbij agreement in June 2018 that focuses on the withdrawal of YPG terrorists from Manbij to stabilize the region. The deal presented a three-stage process to be realized within 90 days: The withdrawal of the terrorist organization, joint Turkish-American patrols, which began in November 2018, and the establishment of a new local administration made up of people who reflect the ethnic composition of the area. However, Washington has long been dragging its feet on the implementation of the Manbij deal.
Commenting on the deal, Vecih Cuma, the head of the Syrian Turkmen Assembly, told Daily Sabah: "Local people want the YPG and their weapons to go along with the withdrawing U.S. troops. With their presence in the city, an effective city council and other structures cannot be formed. People will only trust Turkey."
Pointing out that all of the coalition forces and other warring parties have bombed the people of Syria except for Turkey, Cuma added that local people would not trust a structure crafted by the U.S. without Turkey
Turkish and U.S. officials also have been discussing establishing a safe zone in northern Syria along the length of Turkish borders, to prevent any power vacuum created by the U.S. pullout to be filled with terrorist organization. Yet, no concrete results have come yet. Ankara has suggested since 2012 that a safe zone of 30-40 kilometers be established between the northern Syrian towns of Jarabulus and al-Rai. At that time, Turkey had three main aims for the safe zone: To end damage caused by Syrian regime attacks, prevent Syrians from migrating and avoid terrorist organizations from flourishing in the country.
Touching upon the planned safe zone, Nifi also told Daily Sabah that they are against alleged plans of the U.S. to turn the safe zone into a buffer zone shielding the YPG. He noted that with this plan, Washington plans to maintain its influence in the region through the YPG and lay the foundations for the YPG's legitimization by including the terrorist organization in future political structures.