The Syrian army has not entered Manbij, the US military said Friday, after Syrian forces claimed they had gone into the key northern city and raised the national flag. ‘Despite incorrect information about changes to the military forces in Manbij city, (the US-led coalition) has seen no indication of these claims being true,’ US Central Command spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Earl Brown said. Manbij is a strategic city close to the Turkish border where Kurdish forces have been deployed since 2016.
The Syrian army claimed it had entered the key northern city for the first time in six years on Friday, a spokesman said in a televised statement. The announcement came moments after the Kurds, left exposed by a US pledge to pull out its own troops, asked for the regime’s help to face a threatened Turkish offensive. The Syrian army spokesman said the national flag was raised in Manbij, a key city which lies about 30 kilometers (19 miles) south of the Turkish border. The People’s Protection Units (YPG), the main Kurdish militia in Syria, made its appeal following a shock announcement by its US ally last week of a full troop withdrawal from Syria. The YPG asked government forces to deploy in areas it already withdrew from earlier this year, especially the Manbij area, a key city where US-led coalition forces are stationed.
‘We invite the Syrian government forces… to assert control over the areas our forces have withdrawn from, in particularly Manbij, and to protect these areas against a Turkish invasion,’ the statement said. Kurdish fighters still based there are part of the coalition-backed Syrian Democratic Forces alliance battling the Islamic State jihadist group.Russia hailed as ‘positive’ the Syrian army’s entry into the key northern city of Manbij. ‘Of course, this will help in stabilising the situation. The enlargement of the zone under the control of government forces… is without doubt a positive trend,’ said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. Peskov said the situation would be discussed Saturday during a visit to Moscow by the Turkish foreign affairs and defense ministers, to ‘clarify’ the situation and ‘synchronize actions’ between the two countries. Russia provides critical support to the Syrian government, while Turkey has backed rebel groups fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.