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US, Turkey begin joint patrols around northern Syrian town of Manbij

02 November 2018

Turkey considers the YPG militia an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has led an insurgency in Turkey for more than three decades.

The Turkish government has always been seeking the YPG withdrawal from Manbij over security concerns, as it regards the YPG as an affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), blacklisted by Ankara as a terrorist organization.

US support for the Kurdish-led forces has resulted in increased tension between Washington and Ankara.

A designated and bilaterally agreed upon ground force commander will lead the joint patrols, the US-led coalition said.

In its more than 40-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK, listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, has been responsible for the death of some 40,000 people, including those of women and children.

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The SDF accused Turkey of supporting the ISIS militants in their advances, saying it was responsible for "temporarily stopping the battle to fight terrorism carried out by our forces against the last holdout of the terrorist group". The campaign against ISIS "is not over and that fight remains hard", he said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, also said the patrols will begin Thursday adding that they follow days of Turkish shelling of positions of the main Kurdish militia.

The Turkish defense ministry later said the Kurdish militia fired on Turkish targets and that Turkish troops retaliated, killing 10 fighters. The continuation of Turkish attacks, the group said, would further delay the offensive on the ISIS-held pocket of Hajin.

The Syrian rebel-affiliated Step News Agency reported on Thursday that Kurdish forces are moving armoured vehicles and heavy weaponry from eastern Deir Ezzor to Hassakeh, about 270 kilometres east of Kobani.

"Coalition and Turkish military forces started combined patrols northwest of Manbij today", Army Colonel Sean Ryan, Spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), said in a public statement.

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The Americans and the Turks have been conducting independent patrols along the border, and joint patrols are seen as a way of preventing violence.

In a speech to the Turkish parliament on Tuesday, President Erdogan said that the latest attacks marked the beginning of "more extensive and effective operations" against YPG positions east of the Euphrates. Turkey, however, still wants Kurdish forces in Manbij to withdraw from the town.

Ankara and Washington agreed on a road map to stabilize Manbij earlier that month, amid Turkish demands for the withdrawal of Kurdish militia who helped push Islamic State from the city in 2016.

After conducting a highly controversial military campaign against their forces west of the Euphrates river earlier this year (where Russian Federation holds more sway than the US), Turkey is now preparing to challenge its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies by attacking the Kurds to the east, in areas where US troops are present. He was referring to a Kurdish enclave taken earlier this year by Turkish troops and Turkey-backed Syrian opposition fighters.

This week, Erdogan said: "The terror organization is digging trenches, they are preparing their graves".

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US, Turkey begin joint patrols around northern Syrian town of Manbij