Turkish Ultimatum to US: Expel Kurdish Militias Who Liberated Manbij

Turkey wants the Syrian Kurdish YPG removed from proximity to its border now that it has finished the job of expelling ISIS from the northern Syrian town of Manbij.
Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, prodded Washington in a comment he made on August 15: he asserted that since the Islamic State had been thrown out of Manbij, it was up to Washington to fulfill its obligation to shift the Syrian Kurdish forces which took part in the battle to the eastern bank of the Euphrates and far from the Turkish border.
Some sources in Ankara cited US officials as having stated that the liberation of Manbij would create the conditions for finally going on the offensive against the main ISIS stronghold of Raqqa.
Last week, Ankara put its foot down to stop Kurdish forces leading an operation to clear ISIS out of the 30 km stretch between Manbij and the Turkish border (See DEBKA Weekly 720 of Aug. 12: Russia and Turkey Act in Unison to Pre-empt Kurdish States in Syria and Iraq).
Now, the Turks want them out of Manbij as well.
Washington is in a cleft stick. It is hard to see the American forces who took part in the town’s liberation agreeing to stay on with no shield against an ISIS counteroffensive other than the rebel Syrian Democratic Forces-SDF, say DEBKA Weekly’s military sources. Expelling the Kurds would be tantamount to inviting the jihadists to return to Manbij for an easy comeback.
Turkish officials advised the Americans to redirect the Kurdish militia to an offensive against Raqqa, the ISIS capital in Syria. They were being sarcastic, knowing that while the Kurdish militia was willing to advance toward the Turkish border and fight ISIS under US air cover, the YPG had very good reason (outlined in the last DEBKA Weekly issue) for staying out of a Raqqa operation.
Foreign Minister Cavusoglu’s demand to move the Kurdish militia to the eastern bank of the Euphrates betrayed an intriguing new development. He was referring implicitly to the secret Obama-Putin deal at the end of 2015 which assigned Syria east of Euphrates to US control and the land to the east of the river to the Russian orbit. His words were meant to indicate that Turkey was now empowered to speak on behalf of Russia.
But his comments were most of all a clue to the tough three-part ultimatum Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan landed on Washington’s head on August 15:
1. Clear all YPG Kurd militia forces out Manbij at once.
2. Stop forthwith the Kurdish attack on Islamic State forces in Al-Bab, an area of 30 square kilometers northeast of Aleppo.
3. Prevent the Kurdish militiamen who were forced by Turkish demands to quit Manbij from linking up with their comrades in Sheikh Maqsoon, the Kurdish quarter of Aleppo.
Erdogan did not say so explicitly, but DEBKA Weekly’s military sources point out that Turkish Intelligence is aware that a US special ops forces officer is attached to every Kurdish platoon, so that the Obama administration can compel the Kurds to move east if it so wishes. On the other hand, the YPG’s removal would bring about the collapse of the entire US military and strategic setup in northern Syria.
US Vice President Joe Biden will have his work cut out to sort this mess out when he visits Ankara for discussions on August 24. Up till now, Biden oversaw Iraq, Turkey and Ukraine issues. Now he will also have to get involved with the Syrian morass, not to mention the impact these tangled issues may have on the US presidential elections.

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