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US issues conflicting comments on YPG in Manbij

Pentagon says YPG elements leaving Manbij as presidential envoys says group will exit after training local forces

Kasım İleri   | 17.11.2016
US issues conflicting comments on YPG in Manbij

Washington DC

By Kasim Ileri

WASHINGTON

The U.S. military said Wednesday that the PKK/PYD elements in the northern Syrian town of Manbij has begun to withdraw, contradicting previous statements and a tweet from a presidential envoy that said the group would leave after training local fighters.

Tension between Turkey and the U.S. has persisted for months regarding when all elements affiliated with the PKK terror group would leave Manbij -- located on the western banks of the Euphrates River -- and cross back to the eastern banks after they helped local Arab forces liberate the town from Daesh. The Pentagon had previously said the fighters left the city.

Despite Ankara’s insistence the U.S. keep its promise to leave the predominantly Arab town to locals, President Barack Obama’s special envoy supervising the counter Daesh fight, Brett McGurk, tweeted that YPG fighters will leave after the training of local forces is complete.

But while speaking to Pentagon reporters via videoconference from Baghdad, anti-Daesh coalition spokesman, Col. John Dorrian, caused additional confusion by saying YPG elements have just started to move out of the town.

“My understanding is they were departing and they were doing that today. But as far as whether every single one of them is gone, I would be very uncomfortable saying every single one,” Dorrian said after pressed by Anadolu Agency to reconcile what he said with McGurk’s tweet.

Dorrian insisted the Pentagon has said from the beginning that YPG leadership elements would withdraw from Manbij but leave trainers to groom local fighters.

It appears, however, that it was the first time the U.S. military disclosed that YPG elements would train local forces in Manbij.

Dorrian also commented on Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army’s movement toward the Daesh stronghold in northwestern Syrian town of al-Bab.

He said it would not take time for those Syrian opposition forces to take over the town from Daesh.

“They've not yet moved into al-Bab and taken the city, but they are very, very close --encountering some very pretty tough resistance. They do expect to be able to power through that,” he said.

According to Dorrian, the coalition has not been a part of the Turkish advance toward al-Bab and has not given air support to Turkish-backed forces.

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