Turkey bolsters patrols on Syrian border

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  • The Turkish military wants to move on the center of Manbij
  • Ankara wants the US to increase pressure on the SDF to withdraw from the city

Turkey has strengthened its military presence on the border of Syria’s northern province of Manbij with a seventh military patrol in the area on Sunday.

Ankara acted independently but in coordination with its treaty ally the US, according to press reports.

The patrols are part of a roadmap Turkey and the US endorsed in early June following intense negotiations between the two nations.

The plan is primarily designed around the withdrawal of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) from Manbij and the joint control of the city by Turkish and US troops. Finally, a local administration, including military and municipal councils, will be established in the city.

A day before the seventh patrol, Turkish Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar visited troops at the Turkey-Syria border.

The Turkish Army began its first patrolling mission around Manbij on June 18.

“Turkey and the US will not have hard time in finding a joint framework for Manbij. But the question is whether the US and Turkey will strike a deal that is confined to Manbij or build a model that can be extended to other parts of the US and Turkey-controlled zones,” Galip Dalay, research director at Al-Sharq Forum in Istanbul, told Arab News.

According to Dalay, the sustainability of the roadmap will depend on the content of the deal.

“But it can work easier in Manbij than in Afrin, given the different demography of both cities,” he added.

Oytun Orhan, a Syria expert at Ankara-based think-tank ORSAM, said the patrol will build trust between the two countries to normalize restrained ties over Syria.

“Cooperating at the lowest military level is largely a symbolic move toward a gradual confidence building atmosphere,” he said.

The SDF, which has dominated Manbij since August 2016 when it captured the city from Daesh with US-led support, is a mixed Arab and Kurdish force. The city has ethnically an Arab-dominated population, and the military council that supervises the area is mainly an Arab body allied with the SDF.

However, Ankara wants the US to increase pressure on the SDF to withdraw from the city — where the US has already deployed its forces — to the east of the Euphrates.

Experts say that if the Manbij model is successful, it would be critical to improve ties between the two NATO allies in Syria.

“The Turkish military wants to move on the center of Manbij and expects that the YPG withdraws from the area. However, it is not clear whether the US will break its longtime local partnership with the YPG against Daesh in Syria,” Orhan said.

According to Orhan, the US will implement a gradual strategy in a bid to satisfy the hopes of all parties.

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