The U.S. Department of State (DOS) confirmed on Tuesday that it reached an agreement with Turkey to pull the American-allied Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), deemed “terrorists’ by Ankara, from the northern Syrian city of Manbij, arguing that the move will “reduce tensions.”
For weeks now, Manbij has been home to a stand-off between fighters from the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) led by the YPG and Turkish-allied Syrian opposition fighters.
The situation has essentially pitted the United States, which maintains a presence in Manbij, against its NATO ally Turkey.
Arguing that the YPG is an affiliate of the terrorist Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), known to carry out attacks in Turkey, Ankara had threatened to push the YPG out of Manbij if it did not leave the area on its own accord.
The United States has infuriated Turkey by continuing to back the Kurdish fighters.
U.S. officials argue that the new Manbij deal, reached by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Monday, has, at least for the moment, taken Ankara’s “threat of a military offensive” off the table.
Overall, the U.S.-Turkey deal over the YPG withdrawal from Manbij has “reduced” but not eliminated ongoing “tensions” between the different stakeholders in the region, State Department officials told reporters on condition of anonymity on Tuesday.
The officials acknowledged that the situation now “is relatively stable but also very tense because we are patrolling a demarcation line, is not something that is sustainable over the long-term.”
In a statement issued Tuesday, the YPG, which is the armed wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) that controls swathes of northern Syria, conceded that its military advisers would leave Manbij, Al Jazeera reports.
The U.S. Department of State-Turkey deal appeared to catch the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq and Syria by surprise.
Asked to comment on the agreement on Tuesday, U.S. Col. Thomas Veale, a top spokesman for the American-led coalition, told Pentagon reporters on Tuesday, “Quite honestly, I don’t know what the outcome of that is. We’d expect an official government announcement for that. … I don’t know that that’s a valid statement. I haven’t seen an official proclamation to that effect.”
The Pentagon did not immediately respond to Breitbart News’ request for comment.
On Tuesday, the anonymous State officials ended up providing reporters the official confirmation that appeared to have escaped the Pentagon.
One of the officials declared:
Yesterday the Secretary of State and the Turkish foreign minister endorsed a roadmap which is a broad political framework designed to fulfill the commitment that the United States had made to move the YPG east of the Euphrates and to do so in a way that contributes to security and stability of Manbij and in a fashion that is mutually agreed between the United States and Turkey in every aspect.
It’s important to note that this is a broad political framework, and the implementation of this will require details that remain to be negotiated – and as I said, they will need to be mutually agreeable – and that the implementation will be timed based on developments on the ground.
Another State official acknowledged that Manbij for months has been home to “a fairly tense standoff between” U.S.-allied Kurds and Turkey-backed opposition forces.
“We have helped patrol the demarcation line to try to make sure that tensions remain low and de-escalated,” the U.S. official noted, adding:
We’re confident that in reinforcing the demarcation line and working closely with our NATO ally, Turkey, and working closely with all the opposition parties on the ground, closely with the Syrian Democratic Forces, we can continue to reduce tensions.
Despite Turkey’s concerns over the YPG’s link to the terrorist PKK, Secretary Pompeo praised the Kurdish-led SDF force as a competent partner against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) on Tuesday.
U.S. Col. Veale told reporters that the American military has yet to take back weapons it has provided to the Kurdish elements of the SDF.