U.S. and Turkish forces have begun training for joint patrols around Manbij in northern Syria, Turkey’s defense minister said on Tuesday, October 9.
“The joint training of the elements of Turkey and the U.S. armed forces in Manbij regarding joint patrol activities has begun as of today,” General Hulusi Akar said.
Joint patrols will begin after the training, Turkey’s Anadolu Agency reported Akar as saying.
On October 1, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said he believed that the training for joint patrols was already underway.
“Yes, they, we just got to an agreement last week on some final issues,” the Department of Defense transcript cited a staff member as saying.
“The training now is under way, and we’ll just have to see how that goes,” Mattis then told reporters. “We have every reason to think the joint patrols will be coming on time” by mid-October, “and the training syllabus is in place so that we do it right.”
However, on October 4, General Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command suggested the training had not yet started.
“We’re engaged with our Turkish partners right now in moving to the combined joint patrols. That – the leader training has begun for that and we’ll move into the collective training here very shortly,” Votel said during a press briefing.
“And then we look forward to executing all of that. And we look forward to sustaining the very high level of stability that is already present in Manbij.”
The same day, U.S. European Command, which works closely with Turkey on the situation in Manbij, tweeted:
“In accordance with the Manbij Roadmap and Manbij Security Principles, U.S. and Turkish military forces have begun interoperability rehearsals in preparation for conducting joint combined patrols in Manbij.”
“In the coming weeks, after the completion of the first units’ mission rehearsals, Turkish and U.S. combined patrols will maintain stability and security and prevent terrorist activities in the region. Turkish and U.S. independent patrols, which started June 18, 2018, are continuing as planned.”
units' mission rehearsals, Turkish and U.S. combined patrols will maintain stability and security and prevent terrorist activities in the region. Turkish and U.S. independent patrols, which started June 18, 2018, are continuing as planned.
— U.S European Command (@US_EUCOM) October 4, 2018
The training is to take place in Turkey, according to Reuters.
On June 5, the U.S. Department of State said that the U.S. and Turkey agreed to a “roadmap” for Manbij that included that removal of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), part of the Syrian Democratic Forces fighting Islamic State with U.S.-led Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve.
Turkey sees the YPG as terrorists inextricably linked to the outlawed Turkish Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Anadolu news agency reported on May 30 that the plan would include joint patrols and a joint inspection of the city, as well as the formation of local municipal and military councils.
CJTF-OIR spokesperson Colonel Sean Ryan told reporters later: “They’re independent coordinations, they’re not joint patrols. I can tell you that Turkish soldiers will not go into Manbij.”
Manbij Military Council spokesperson Shervan Derwish told The Defense Post that the U.S. has given locals guarantees that they will be protected from outside attacks.
On Saturday, Derwish said the joint patrols would be confined to the “neutral zone” outside Manbij.
The Coalition has called the current moves along the opposite sides of the Manbij demarcation line, “independent, coordinated patrols.” Those patrols began on June 18.