Dec 29 2018

US officials frustrated by Kurds inviting Assad forces to Manbij - NYT

Some U.S. officials were taken aback on Friday by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) announcement that it had invited the Syrian government forces to the northwestern town of Manbij to provide protection against a Turkish assault, according to one senior American official, the New York Times said on Friday. 

The YPG, which forms the backbone of the U.S.-led coalition fighting against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria, said on Friday that the Syrian government should send troops to the city of Manbij, near the Turkish border.

The Syrian army later said that it had entered Manbij, the headquarters of U.S. and Kurdish troops fighting ISIS in the east and northeast of the country. 

Turkey announced last month that it would launch a large scale offensive against the YPG on the east of Euphrates River, but delayed its plans after the U.S. President Donald Trump announced last week that he had decided to withdraw American troops in Syria. 

As Turkey has stepped up the deployment of personnel and equipment to its Syrian border, the Syrian Kurdish leadership has started looking for new options and has requested Damascus to protect the country’s borders against a Turkish invasion.

Some American officials were taken aback by the Kurdish announcement, voicing frustration and anger to their Kurdish counterparts, the New York Times quoted a senior American official as saying. There was no consultation or coordination, the official said.

The officials said that Washington understood the reasons behind Kurdish efforts to open discussions with the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, adding that the Kurdish position did not necessarily reflect views of Arab members of the Kurdish-Arab coalition battling ISIS.

Abdulkarim Omar, a foreign relations official with the Kurdish-led administration in northeastern Syria, told the New York Times that the talks with Assad government continued and that the only issue that had been agreed upon so far was the Syrian Army deployment near Manbij, after the Americans withdraw

When asked if that agreement had been coordinated with the United States, he said, “You can ask the Americans.

Alliance with the United States have helped Syria’s Kurds to strengthen their military and political power during the war in Syria.

Ankara sees the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which has been fighting inside Turkey for more than three decades. For the Turkish government, the emergence of an autonomous Kurdish-controlled zone in northeast Syriais a threat to its national security. 

Assad is also not happy with the fact that Kurdish-led militias control about one-quarter of Syria’s territory. The Syrian government and its allies, Russia and Iran, want the territory to fall back under the control of Damascus.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/28/world/middleeast/syria-kurds-turkey-manbij.html?smtyp=cur&smid=tw-nytimes