World Bulletin / News Desk
The PYD, the PKK group’s Syrian affiliate, has captured eight villages between the cities of Manbij and Al-Bab in Syria’s northwestern Aleppo province after ISIL militants withdrew from the area without putting up any resistance.
PKK/PYD forces which are now advancing west on Al-Bab from Manbij have captured the villages of Sheikh Nasser, Al-Boghaz, Kankoy, Al-Ashleya, Al-Kandirliya, Barshaya, Sab Wairan, Al-Sheikh Nasser and Kawekli.
The PYD’s latest moves in Aleppo contradict earlier assertions by the U.S. State Department (issued on Sept. 7 and 27) that the group would soon withdraw from Manbij, which is situated on the western bank of the Euphrates River.
According to Turkish intelligence reports, however, the PKK/PYD has maintained its presence in the city.
On Wednesday, Brett McGurk, U.S. President Barack Obama’s special envoy for the fight against ISIL, tweeted that fighters from the YPG -- the PYD’s armed wing -- would withdraw from Manbij once they finished training local volunteers.
But according to Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for a U.S.-led anti-ISIL coalition, speaking to reporters from Baghdad on Wednesday, said YPG elements had already begun to withdraw from the city.
"My understanding is they were departing and they were doing that today," Dorrian said after being pressed by Anadolu Agency to explain the apparent contradiction.
"But as far as whether every single one of them is gone, I would be very uncomfortable saying every single one," he added.
Dorrian went on to stress that the Pentagon had said from the outset that leading YPG members would withdraw from Manbij while leaving some fighters behind to train local volunteers.
The assertion, however, was the first time for U.S. officials to say that YPG elements planned to train local volunteers in Manbij.
PYD forces now stand between 8 and 9 kilometers from Al-Bab with the ultimate aim of establishing control over all areas between Manbij and Syria’s northwestern city of Afrin.
The Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA), meanwhile, currently stands roughly 2 kilometers to the north of Al-Bab.
Ankara continues to back the FSA within the context of Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield, which was launched in August with the stated aim of purging Syria’s northern border region of terrorist groups with the use of air power, ground troops and artillery.
Roughly 1,720 square kilometers of territory in northern Syria has been cleared of ISIL elements since the operation began three months ago.Last Mod: 17 Kasım 2016, 16:45