Report: Turkey-Supported Rebels Attack U.S. Troops in Kurdish Syria

Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army fighters secure an area where the Turkish army's Operation Olive Branch continues in Azaz, northwestern Syria, Wednesday. (AP)
Associated Press

An American military patrol in the Syrian region of Manbij took fire from Turkey-allied forces in the area on October 15, Military Times reported this week.

On Wednesday, Military Times quoted U.S. Army Col. Sean Ryan, a spokesman for the Inherent Resolve coalition to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS), as saying, “Troops were on a patrol with Manbij Civil Council and received gunfire from an unknown source.”

“It was over quickly and a reminder to stay vigilant,” he also said, later adding, “Manbij has been relatively safe but it is still Syria, and a lot of malign actors are looking to cause trouble.”

Col. Ryan did not explicitly confirm if the fighters firing at the American troops were, indeed, forces allied with Turkey.

However, Military Times learned from a video Syrian Kurdish journalist Hosheng Hesen posted on Twitter that U.S. troops clashed with armed rebel factions sponsored by Turkey in Manbij on October 15.

The U.S.-led coalition Inherent Resolve also confirmed to Military Times this year that alliance troops have taken fire from suspected Turkey-backed fighters “sporadically over the time they have been patrolling near Manbij.”

Nevertheless, Col. Ryan indicated that “he didn’t expect this incident to derail efforts to cool tensions between Turkey and the U.S.”

In recent weeks, Turkey has repeatedly accused the United States of delaying a deal Washington and Ankara reached in June to withdraw U.S.-allied Kurdish forces from Manbij. However, the U.S. military recently indicated that “most” of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), considered to be terrorists by Turkey, have been pushed out of Manbij.

Under the deal, the YPG militiamen are expected to leave Manbij, and Turkish and American troops are to maintain security and stability in and around the town.

On Wednesday, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told the state-run Anadolu Agency (AA) that joint patrols between Turkey and the United States are expected to begin “soon” in Manbij, Reuters reported.

The U.S.-Turkey agreement came amid a standoff between U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters and Turkish-allied opposition fighters. It is expected to reduce tensions between the two sides.

Ankara considers the YPG an extension of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) terrorist group that is waging an insurgency inside Turkey. Turkey has threatened to force the YPG troops out if they fail to leave by their own accord.

U.S. support for the Kurdish fighters has strained the relationship between NATO allies Ankara and Washington.

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