People walk through debris in the center of Afrin, Syria March 24, 2018. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi
CAIRO - 29 March 2018: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan revealed that his next target, after occupying Afrin city, will be the city of Manbij in the northeast of Aleppo Governorate in northern Syria.
The Turkish military operation in Afrin which lasted for roughly two months aimed at eliminating terrorists (Kurdish fighters) Erdogan said.
Manbij is 30 kilometers west of the Euphrates with a population of 300,000 (only 100,000 people according to the 2004 census conducted by Syria's Central Bureau of Statistics). Many different ethnics live in Manbij such as Arabs, Kurds, Circassians and Chechens, and Naqshbandi Sufism.
Manbij is the hometwon of Arab poet Buhturi who devoted much of his poetry to the praise of Aleppo.
The Turkish president had demanded that the U.S. administration pull out its soldiers from the Manbij province, before Washington replied that the Turkish advancement to Manbij may lead to collision between Turkish and American troops deployed in the territory just west of the Euphrates, in support of the YPG who controls the area.
Men ride motorcycles as Turkish soldiers are seen with their military vehicle in the center of Afrin, Syria March 24, 2018. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi
"We'll continue this process until we completely abolish this corridor," Erdogan said a few days ago. "One night, we will suddenly enter Sinjar."
Erdogan reiterated that an advance towards Manbij, Raqqa and Hasaka governorates where Kurdish YPG forces exist is "a must" and asserted that the Turkish military operation in Syria will remain until "the elimination of all terrorists."
On March 21, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke at a news conference, announcing that his country and the U.S. have reached "an understanding, but not full agreement, about stabilizing the town of Manbij and other areas of Kurdish-controlled northern Syria."
Turkey considers the YPG to be an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which enjoys the support of Washington against the ISIS militants and the Syrian regular army since the beginning of the Syrian civil war seven years ago.
During an official visit in February, former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had played a key role in resolving the dispute between Ankara and Washington, promising to find a solution for Manbij; however, the dismissal of Tillerson from office may delay the escalation deal between the U.S. and Turkey, according to Turkish officials' statements to Reuters.
Turkish soldiers are seen in the center of Afrin, Syria March 24, 2018. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi
Operation Olive Branch had the opportunity to seriously strain the delicate balance of power in Syria, and the capture of Afrin city affirms Turkey’s ambitions in the long term. The Syrian government has confirmed that it intends to recapture the whole country, and if Ankara continues to support the opposition and consolidate territory in Syria, Russia will be forced to enforce Syria’s sovereignty at the request of Damascus.
Earlier, the commander of the U.S. Central Command, General Joseph Votel, said that Washington does not know what Turkey's intentions are in terms of the military operation Ankara had launched in Syria's border city of Afrin on Jan. 20, although Turkey had informed the U.S. about that military operation in Afrin.
Quoted by Al Arabiya television, Votel said that Afrin does not fall within the scope of the U.S. military. However, he added that "the potential operation in Manbij was not disclosed" to them.
Children ride in a vehicle in the center of Afrin, Syria March 24, 2018. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi