Turkey insists it has reached an agreement to work with the United States to bring the fight to Manbij, Syria, as part of its post-Afrin efforts to expand its aggressive military operation to other Kurdish-held areas further east and into Iraq if necessary.
On Monday, a day after the Turkey military seized Afrin, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Ankara’s intentions to extend its so-called operation.
“We will continue this process until we entirely eliminate this corridor, including in Manbij, Ayn al-Arab, Tal Abyad, Ras al-Ayn and Qamishli,” warned Erdogan.
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu cautioned that Turkey will expand its offensive into Iraq if necessary to clear out the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) terrorists from areas like Sinjar if necessary, reported Hurriyet Daily News.
“If this plan [stabilization] is not realized, the only option left will be to clear [the area of] terrorists. This is not just valid for Syria, but also for Iraq,” said Çavuşoğlu.
Turkey considers the U.S.-allied People’s Protection Units (YPG/YPJ) to be terrorists affiliated with the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK).
Critics like United Nations envoy Nadia Murad, a Yazidi who survived atrocities at the hands of the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), have described Turkey’s actions as war crimes that amount to “ethnic cleansing and genocide.”
Turkey and Syria share a border, particularly along areas with a robust Kurdish population.
The United States refused to help its YPG allies from the Turkish onslaught in Afrin, arguing that it does not maintain a presence there.
“The United States does not operate in the area of northwest Syria, where Afrin is located. We remain committed to our NATO ally Turkey, to include their legitimate security concerns,” Heather Nauert, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of State (DOS), declared on Monday, echoing the American military.
That argument no longer applies to Manbij, where the U.S. has troops stationed, prompting fears for a possible confrontation with American troops.
Despite Turkey’s concerns that the YPG is a terrorist group by affiliation, namely to the PKK, the United States continues to lend support to the Kurds, except in Afrin.
The primary focus of the Turkish offensive is to clear the Turkey-Syria border of Kurds it has labeled terrorists.
İbrahim Kalın, a spokesman for the Turkish president, claimed in an interview with Al Jazeera on Monday that the United State had agreed to allow Turkey to invade Manbij, an allegation that the Trump administration has dismissed as nonsense.
“Well, that’s funny because no agreement has been reached,” said Nauert in response to Kalin’s assertions.
The State’s Department’s denial has fallen on deaf ears, as the Turkish foreign minister remains adamant that Ankara’s Manbij offensive has Washington’s blessings.
Turkey’s Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said:
The YPG [Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units] will withdraw from here [Manbij] and their withdrawal will be monitored. Then, the question of who will maintain the security of this region will be addressed. As soon as the YPG leaves, Turkey and the U.S. will take joint action there. We will also take measures regarding security together.
Once the roadmap on Manbij is successfully implemented, [we] will then move on to cities located east of the Euphrates where the same model will be implemented,” said Çavuşoğlu, citing the outcomes of a meeting for a working group.
Hurriyet Daily News pointed out, “Ankara is seeking an agreement with Washington over who will secure Manbij after the YPG withdraws from the area.Turkey wants the U.S. to put an end to its support to the YPG and collect the arms it has distributed to the organization.”
Ankara and Washington “should not let relations between them cool” over the discussion of an offensive into Manbij,” Çavuşoğlu indicated.
Soon after launching its offensive to push the Kurds out of Afrin, Turkey urged its fellow NATO ally, the United States, to pull out of Manbij, but the U.S. refused.
“Turkey will rid Syria’s Manbij of terrorists following Afrin,” Turkish President Erdogan predicted in January.
At the time, the Turkish foreign minister claimed Turkey demanded the United States pull out of Manbij entirely before Ankara invades it.
This week, Turkish military troops backed by Syrian rebels conquered Afrin from the YPG abandoned by the U.S.-led coalition after they helped deal a defeating blow to ISIS.
The Turkish military and its allies have massacred thousands, including Christians and Yazidis, but U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, although urging Ankara to stop, preserved its alliance with Turkey.