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US-Turkey forces begin training of joint patrols for Syria’s Manbij

Tanks belonging to Turkish Armed Forces' are being dispatched to support the units at border in Reyhanli district of Hatay, Turkey on 13 September, 2018 [Cem Genco/Anadolu Agency]
Tanks belonging to Turkish Armed Forces' are being dispatched to support the units at border in Reyhanli district of Hatay, Turkey on 13 September, 2018 [Cem Genco/Anadolu Agency]

Military training for joint US-Turkish patrols around the Syrian city of Manbij have begun this week, Pentagon reporters were told by the spokesman for the US-led Coalition against the Islamic State (Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve) Col. Sean Ryan on Tuesday.

The training programme is being led by the US military in order to instruct Turkish officers in tactics of patrol to prepare their soldiers for the joint mission, in what has been labelled the “train-the-trainer” programme.

Speaking to the news organisation Kurdistan 24, Col. Ryan said that currently “they’re just going through all the different classes and all the different instruction that both parties need to fully complement each other before they go out on an actual patrol.”

Since the city was captured by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) from Daesh in 2016, Turkish and US military patrols around the city have been operating separately.

Read: Has the conflict between Ankara and Washington come to an end?

The US’ persistent support of the Kurdish SDF has angered Turkey who sees them as an extension of the PKK (Kurdistan Worker’s Party) terrorist group.

To rebuild relations, in June the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu drew up a roadmap of Manbij and its military patrols, deciding that the two cooperate on joint-patrols and the Kurdish YPG fighters must move east of the Euphrates river.

Last Friday, after Turkey freed American Pastor Andrew Brunson and ended a political crisis between the two states, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan brought up the Manbij issue by stating that the YPG “are now digging trenches in Manbij. What does this mean? It means ‘we’ve prepared the graves, come and bury us’…They said they would abandon the area in 90 days, but they haven’t. We will do what is necessary.”

The issue of the delay in the Manbij roadmap was also raised at a press conference on Tuesday by a Turkish media journalist, to which the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford replied that the US was “moving at a reasonable pace” and that there was “no urgency” due to the stable security situation in Manbij.

Read: Syrian hardliners signal acceptance of Idlib deal

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