Turkish and U.S. troops on Thursday began their first round of joint patrols in the northern Syrian city of Manbij, as part of a deal to rid the area of the YPG/PKK terrorist group, Turkey's national defense minister announced.
"The joint patrols of Turkish and U.S. troops -- on which we have made plans and completed training and which we said would start -- began at 3.53 p.m. local time [1353GMT]," Hulusi Akar said to the Turkish Parliament.
Turkish and U.S. troops patrolled around the Saju Stream, which separates the Manbij frontline from the city of Jarabulus, an area falling under Turkey's Operation Euphrates Shield, according to Anadolu Agency reporters on the ground.
The U.S.-led coalition, Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), said in a statement, the combined patrols allow U.S.-led coalition and Turkish military to complement the local security structure for security and stability in Manbij.
"Maintaining security and stability in Manbij is imperative to sustaining momentum during the ongoing defeat-ISIS [Daesh] operations in eastern Syria and for the safe and voluntary return of refugees and internally displaced persons," it said.
Maj. Gen. Christopher Ghika, deputy commander of the joint task force, said rehearsals conducted by Turkish and coalition forces "provide an important foundation".
"Our interoperability ensures our ability to work together to continue to protect the civilians of Manbij in our common goal of the enduring the defeat of Daesh," said Ghika. "We’re fully supportive of the road map and the combined joint patrols, and I am confident they will be very effective."
Since June 18, the Turkish Armed Forces have carried out 68 individual patrols in Manbij.
The Manbij deal between Turkey and the U.S. focuses on the withdrawal of YPG/PKK terrorists from the city to stabilize the region, which is in the northeast of northern Syria's Aleppo province.
In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU -- has been responsible for the death of 40,000 people, including women and children. The YPG is its Syrian branch.
Operation Euphrates Shield, which began in August 2016 and ended in March 2017, aimed to eliminate the terrorist threat along the border in the northern Syrian regions of Jarabulus, Al-Rai, Al-Bab, and Azaz with the use of the Free Syrian Army, backed by Turkish artillery and air cover.