The US Central Command chief General Joseph Votel said on Sunday during a recent trip to the Middle East that pulling US forces from Manbij was “not something we are looking into,” CNN’s website reported.
The United States has around 2,000 military personnel in northern Syria supporting the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is an alliance of militias in northern and eastern Syria and largely dominated by Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
Turkey, which considers the YPG to be a terrorist organization, has called on Washington to end its military support for the group and to pull back from Manbij, where some of its troops are stationed.
This is while US officials regard the YPG as the most effective fighting force against the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in northern Syria, and have substantially increased their weaponry and technology support to the group.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Saturday that the United States “needs to break its link with (the) terrorist organization and make them drop their weapons completely. They need to collect the weapons they gave, they need to withdraw from Manbij immediately.”
The developments come as Ankara continues its operation against the Kurdish militants in Syria’s northwestern region of Afrin.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly said that Afrin should be cleared of “terrorists,” and demanded the deployment of Turkish troops there during a speech back in November 2016.
The controversy over a possible Syria border force first started on January 14 when a report emerged on Reuters saying that the military coalition led by the US in Syria was planning to set up a large border force of up to 30,000 personnel with the aid of its militia allies.
Meanwhile, senior authorities in Ankara have warned Washington that there could be a confrontation between Turkish and American troops in northern Syria if arms transfer to the Kurds was not stopped.
Operation Olive Branch in Afrin is Turkey’s second major military intervention in Syria since 2011.
In August 2016, Turkey began a unilateral campaign in northern Syria, code-named Operation Euphrates Shield, sending tanks and warplanes across the border. Ankara claimed that its move was aimed at pushing Daesh terrorists from Turkey’s border with Syria and stopping the advance of Kurdish forces, themselves fighting Daesh.
Turkey ended its campaign in northern Syria in March 2017, but at the time did not rule out the possibility of yet another act of military offensive inside the Arab country.