Surrender without a fight: Kurds abandon Syrian Manbij

The military advisors of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) have withdrawn from the Syrian city of Manbij. This was reported in a YPG statement distributed by the Kurdish news agency Firat on June 6. The YPG is leaving the city in accordance with a US-Turkey agreement reached on June 4.

“At the request of the military council of Manbij, a group of military instructors from our forces remained as advisers, this took place in coordination with the international coalition… Now, after two years of work, the military council has switched to self-reliance in matters of training, and the YPG command has decided to recall its advisers from Manbij,” the YPG stated.

On Monday, June 4, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu attended negotiations in Washington with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, during which a roadmap for the withdrawal of Kurdish groups from Manbij was approved. The following day, Çavuşoğlu said that, before leaving Manbij, the Kurds must surrender the weapons they received from the US to fight against Islamic State (IS). The Kurds have held Manbij since 2016, when they captured it from IS militants with US assistance.

“They [the Kurds] are retreating east of the Euphrates. However, this does not mean that we agree to them remaining there,” Çavuşoğlu told reporters on Tuesday. Ankara has repeatedly stated that the Turkish army will continue the operation in northern Syria until the cities of the border region with Iraq are “completely cleaned out of militants”. According to Çavuşoğlu, in future, Turkey will suggest roadmaps for the remaining YPG-controlled cities.

The YPG and YPJ (Women’s Protection Units) are part of the predominantly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is the military wing of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD). The PYD, in turn, is connected ideologically to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Both parties are prohibited and considered terrorist organizations in Turkey. 

The Washington Post reported with reference to several sources that self-government will be arranged for Manbij from among the local residents. Turkish soldiers will patrol the demarcation line.

  Manbij, Kurds, Turkey, Syria