US, Turkey agree on withdrawal of Kurdish militia from Syrian city

US, Turkey agree on withdrawal of Kurdish militia from Syrian city
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The Syrian Kurdish YPG militia on Tuesday said it will leave Manbij, Syria, after Turkey and the United States the day prior agreed on the militia’s withdrawal.

Turkey has long demanded the YPG withdraw from Syria’s northern border with the nation. In a new roadmap agreed upon by Ankara and Washington on Monday, the Syrian Kurds will leave and the U.S. and Turkey will jointly maintain security in the city.

“We affirm that our forces will heed the call when necessary to offer support and help to the people of Manbij should it be needed,” the YPG said in a statement.


The YPG said fighters left Manbij in November 2016 after the defeat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) there. Military advisers stayed, however, to work with the Manbij Military Council, according to the statement. Those advisers will now leave.

Washington has backed the YPG, which is part of the Syrian Democratic Forces, in its fight against ISIS. But Ankara considers the YPG a terrorist group, connected to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party in Turkey.

The mismatched view between the U.S. and its NATO ally has caused a number of issues in the past year. Turkish forces in March seized Afrin, Syria, from the YPG, a move the U.S. State Department said it was “deeply concerned” over. 

After that battle, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Turkey would push east to Manbij with its forces, a move which would potentially confront U.S. forces stationed with the Kurdish militia.

On Monday, the U.S. sought to alleviate issues at a meeting in Washington between Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoState Department watchdog probing whether Trump aides took gifts meant for foreign officials Biden shows little progress with Abraham Accords on first anniversary Biden slips further back to failed China policies MORE and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. The two agreed on a roadmap for removing the YPG from Manbij.

U.S. officials have since said details still need to be negotiated on the roadmap.

Cavusoglu said on Tuesday, however, that work on the roadmap would begin in 10 days and be completed within six months, with the YPG disarmed and sent east of the Euphrates River. He added that the model should be used for other areas in Syria controlled by YPG, including Raqqa and Kobane. 

“The YPG is a terrorist organization and cannot have any role in any city. We cannot hand over a region or city to a terrorist organization,” Cavusoglu said.