WASHINGTON: Secretary of State Jim Mattis said Monday the U.S. is ready to implement a Manbij-focused roadmap with Turkey.
“We are prepared to go forward with the collaboration across the forward line of our own troops, which starts with knowing where each of us is at,” Mattis told reporters, referring to Turkish military forces.
“Then start patrols on each side, saying ‘I see you, you see me’ and then probably some kind of collaborative patrols inside that pocket.”
Mattis also noted that the military factors are now in execution for the Manbij-focused roadmap, adding that U.S. and Turkish officials will also meet in Stuttgart, Germany this week to discuss the military implementation of the plan.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and his American counterpart Mike Pompeo last week reaffirmed the joint roadmap drawn up by Ankara and Washington for stabilizing the Syrian city of Manbij.
Cavusoglu said the roadmap would be implemented in three stages, which would focus on the removal of YPG/PKK forces from Manbij, the removal of YPG/PKK affiliated individuals from local governing organizations and the establishment of joint U.S.-Turkish patrols and a new local governing administration based on the local population.
Following a visit by former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Ankara in February, Turkey and the U.S. established a mechanism to address separate issues in working groups, including the stabilization of Manbij and to prevent any undesirable clashes.
This January, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch in Afrin, northern Syria to clear terrorist groups from the area. After liberating the city of Afrin, Ankara said it might also extend its operation further east to Manbij unless the PYD/PKK terrorist group leaves the strategic city.
U.S. military support for the terrorist PYD/PKK in Manbij has strained ties between Ankara and Washington and has led to fears of military clashes between the two NATO allies, since there are roughly 2,000 U.S. troops in the city.
The YPG/PKK and PYD/PKK are Syrian offshoots of the PKK terror group, which has taken some 40,000 lives in its 30-year terrorist campaign against the Turkish state, including those of women and children.
Brushing aside its terrorist status, the U.S. has called the PYD/PKK a “reliable ally” in the fight against Daesh.