US, Turkey Begin Joint Patrols in Syria’s Manbij

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U.S. and Turkish forces have begun joint patrols in the area of Manbij, Syria, where Kurdish militia fighters have been critical to defeating Islamic State fighters.

 

Two U.S. defense officials and Turkish officials confirmed the patrols in northern Syria on Thursday.

 

The Pentagon has said the purpose of the patrols is to support “long-term security in Manbij” and uphold its commitments to NATO-ally Turkey.

 

Kurdish militia fighters in Manbij are supported by Washington but slammed by Ankara as anti-Turkey terrorists.

 

Before Thursday, U.S. and Turkish forces had conducted what the Pentagon described as “coordinated but independent” patrols in the area.

 

The patrols come as Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in eastern Syria’s Deir el-Zour region temporarily suspended their offensive against the Islamic State terror group due to recent Turkish shelling attacks.

 

Turkish forces this week struck several Kurdish militia targets near the town of Kobani in northern Syria.

The SDF said Wednesday that they fired back in self-defense, and “as a result, a Turkish military vehicle was destroyed.”

 

Army Col. Sean Ryan, a spokesman for the counter-Islamic State coalition, said Thursday the U.S. was in communication with both Turkey and the SDF “to de-escalate the situation.”

 

“Unity of focus on the defeat of ISIS is the Goal!” Ryan said on Twitter.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and U.S. President Donald Trump discussed Syria in a phone call Thursday.

 

Earlier this week, Erdogan increased threats to launch a major offensive against Syrian Kurdish fighters near the Euphrates River.

 

“We will destroy the terror structure east of the Euphrates River. We have completed preparations and plans regarding this issue,” Erdogan said in a speech to lawmakers from his ruling AK Party on Tuesday.

 

VOA’s Sirwan Kajjo contributed to this story.

 

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