US won't withdraw from Manbij: State Dept. Spokesperson
'We look forward to continuing our conversations' with Turkey, Heather Nauert says
The U.S. State Department spokesperson on Thursday said the U.S. has no intention to leave Manbij despite Turkey’s pledge to clear YPG/PKK terrorists from Manbij, in northern Syria.
"U.S. forces are located in Manbij. We have made it very clear with the Turkish government that we continue to operate there," Heather Nauert at a press conference said in a response to a question about the U.S.' stance on Manbij.
Nauert also said the talks with Ankara have not been concluded and Washington is willing to continue the conversations, referring to the three technical committees of Turkey and the U.S., formed to solve issues between the two countries.
Turkish troops launched a military operation on Jan. 20 to clear terrorist groups from Afrin, which was liberated last week amid growing terror threats posed from the region to Turkey. Ankara said it might also extend its operation further east to Manbij unless the PYD/PKK terrorist group leaves the strategically located city.
However, U.S. military support for the terrorist PYD/PKK group in Manbij has strained ties between Ankara and Washington and has led to fears of potential clashes on the ground between troops of the two NATO allies, since there are roughly 2,000 U.S. troops in the city.
Turkey and the U.S. have established working groups to discuss the stabilization of Manbij and to prevent any undesirable clashes.
But due to the abrupt departure of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who helped establish the working groups, the future of Manbij remains unknown.
The U.S. has supported the YPG/PKK under the name of SDF, which is considered by Ankara as the Syrian offshoot of the PKK terror organization that has waged a more than 30-year war against the Turkish state.
American support for the terror group has long vexed Ankara, as Washington views the SDF as a "reliable partner" in its fight against Daesh and continues to provide it with arms and equipment in the face of strong objections by Turkey. The PKK has fought a 33-year war against Turkey that has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths.