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Mattis: Training has begun for joint US-Turkish patrols in Syrian city

Mattis: Training has begun for joint US-Turkish patrols in Syrian city
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The U.S. and Turkish militaries have begun training for joint patrols in the northern Syrian city of Manbij, Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisBiden's is not a leaky ship of state — not yet Rejoining the Iran nuclear deal would save lives of US troops, diplomats The soft but unmatched power of US foreign exchange programs MORE said Monday.

“The training now is under way, and we’ll just have to see how that goes,” Mattis told reporters traveling with him to Paris, according to Reuters.

“We have every reason to believe the joint patrols will be coming on time, when the training syllabus is complete so that we do it right.”

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Manbij has been a key point of tension in the fraught U.S. relationship with NATO ally Turkey.

Turkey has been demanding the withdrawal of U.S.-backed Kurdish forces from the city, which was retaken from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in 2016.

Ankara considers the Kurdish forces to be terrorists connected to a Kurdish insurgency in its borders, while Washington considers them the most effective local force fighting ISIS in Syria.

In June, the United States and Turkey reached an agreement on a “Manbij Roadmap” that sets the withdrawal of the Kurds from the city.

As part of the roadmap, U.S. and Turkish forces have been conducting separate patrols. Joint patrols are seen as a way to mitigate potential violence between the various groups in the area.

Training for the joint patrols had been delayed as equipment was brought in and the United States and Turkey worked out some remaining details.

On Monday, Mattis said the U.S. military has started instructing Turkey’s military trainers and that training of the broader Turkish forces will follow soon. The training is happening in Turkey.

Mattis said the Turkish military has “been very helpful, very professional on setting the rules of engagement and the training up, and we’re on the ground there now,” as reported by The Associated Press.

Outside of Manbij, U.S.-Turkish relations have been frosty over Turkey’s detention of an American pastor who has lived in Istanbul for more than 20 years. The pastor, Andrew Brunson, was arrested in 2016 on espionage and terror-related charges related to the failed coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The White House has said the charges against Brunson are baseless and has demanded his release. His next court hearing is Oct. 12.

The U.S. has also been warning Turkey against purchasing a Russian missile defense system. Western officials oppose the purchase because it would put the system in close proximity to NATO weaponry.