Deputy Chief of General Staff of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) Haitham Afeisi
Deputy Chief of General Staff of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) Haitham Afeisi, in an exclusive interview with Yeni Şafak daily, declared that after the operation in Afrin was concluded, one in Manbij would follow.
“We have no deficiencies in terms of weapons, ammunition or fighters, and we are morally ready as well. A 10,000-strong force is ready for Manbij,” he said.
Highlighting the significance of a possible operation in Manbij, Afeisi pointed to the U.S. activities in the region.
“We regard Manbij as strategically important as Afrin, so as Syria’s National Army (“al-Jaysh al-Watani”) we have declared war against the Kurdistan workers’ Party (PKK) formations in Manbij. Rather than the PKK, the U.S. is the more pressing problem. In the case that the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) and the FSA were to enter Manbij, the U.S., as it did in Afrin, will withdraw its support from the terrorists. If it does not, we will battle U.S. forces deployed in that region as well.”
“The military cooperation between Turkey and the FSA that began with Operation Euphrates Shield will continue until Syrian people find peace. The forces that use every means to prevent Syrian people from being in power in their own regions will have to face the determination of Turkey and Syria’s National Army. We have come to an agreement with Ankara on all matters. Manbij is not the final destination; we won’t stop until Hasakah, Ayn Issa, Ayn al-Arab, Ras al-Ayn, Al-Malikiyah, and Tal Abyad are purged of terror,” he stated.
Around 30 sub-groups of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), under the guidance of Turkey, have unified to form the country’s 22,000-strong “National Army,” becoming Syria’s largest armed group that will fight against the Assad regime, Daesh and the PKK terrorists.
Haitham Afeisi also shared that the U.S. and the PKK had been meeting with Assad regarding a possible handover of Manbij.
“The U.S. and the PKK have been trying to find a way out against Turkey’s determined stance. They are in panic over Manbij. PKK is aware that it can’t hold on in Manbij, but it doesn’t want to surrender the town to the FSA or the TAF. Therefore, it has been negotiating with Damascus on a possible handover of the city to the Assad regime, which doesn’t possess enough power to enter and establish control of Manbij. The Assad regime was removed from Manbij in 2013. It once again entering would result in never-ending conflicts in the region. The U.S. and Western countries have chosen a handful of PKK terrorists over the Syrian people. Practically creating the PKK from scratch, they planted it in the region. In this regard, Operation Olive Branch launched in Afrin is a meaningful response to their treason attempt. We, as Syria’s National Army, are proud to fight side-by-side with Turkish soldiers,” Afesi asserted.
Operation Olive Branch was initiated on Jan. 20 in Afrin to establish security and stability, eliminate PKK/KCK/PYD-YPG and Daesh terrorists, and save locals from their oppression and cruelty.
The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey’s rights based on international law, UN Security Council resolutions, its self-defense rights under the UN charter, and respect for Syria's territorial integrity, it said.
The military also said it is putting the "utmost importance" on not harming any civilians.