The Syrian Arab Army has entered the northeastern city of Manbij, state media has reported. The deployment comes amid the ongoing Turkish operation against the Kurdish-led militias, which control several towns in the border area.
State news agency SANA broke the news on Monday, confirming the earlier sightings of the Syrian troops in the area, first spotted overnight.
The confirmation comes a few hours after Turkey signaled that its military and affiliated Syrian “opposition” militants have sought to enter the city after the withdrawal of the Kurdish-led militias.
“We are about to implement our decision on Manbij,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters on Monday. “When Manbij is evacuated, we will not go in there as Turkey. Our Arab brothers, who are the real owners, the tribes … will return there. Our approach is to ensure their return and security there.”
The map of control in Syria is once again going through rapid changes after Turkey began an invasion of the northeast border areas, dubbed ‘Operation Peace Spring.’ The offensive targets Kurdish-led militias that Ankara considers to be terrorists. This includes the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) group, that has been the key US ally in its fight against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorists.
Turkey’s operation kicked off days after the decision by US President Donald Trump to withdraw American servicemen embedded with the Kurdish forces, in a move that has been condemned by his critics as a “betrayal” of the Syrian Kurds. Trump said the move was needed to “end the endless war.”
As the Turkish-backed operation gained momentum, Trump authorized a withdrawal of US troops from the region so they wouldn’t get caught in the crossfire. At the same time, the Syrian Army made a move towards the northern border – which the US troops blocked it from reaching for years – in order to support Kurdish-led forces against what it called “Turkish aggression.”
It appears that Syrian troops are trying to fill in the vacuum left by the US forces as quickly as they leave. On Monday, RT’s video agency Ruptly filmed Syrian units advancing towards the Kurdish-held border town of Kobani – and meeting US troops on their way out.
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