Turkish, US troops begin joint patrols in Syria's Manbij

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When Turkey launched Olive Branch, the U.S. announced that it would not provide any military support to the YPG fighters in Afrin since they operated outside the realm of the US-led coalition's mission to defeat IS.

USA and Turkish forces have begun joint patrols in the area of Manbij, Syria, where Kurdish militia have been critical to defeating Islamic State fighters.

US-backed Kurdish fighters in northern Syria say Turkish military vehicles are massing near the border ahead of an expected assault that could derail their fight against ISIS in the east of the country and further strain relations between Ankara and Washington, its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally.

Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist group because of its links to the Kurdish insurgency in southeastern Turkey.

Kurdish news agency Hawar News reported that the joint patrols took place 19 kilometers from the city with three U.S. and three Turkish vehicles, starting from the village of Arab Hassan.

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The attack came one day after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to destroy Kurdish militias east of the Euphrates. "We have completed preparations and plans regarding this issue", Erdogan said in a speech to lawmakers from his ruling AK Party on Tuesday. It was the second time this week Turkish artillery targeted Kurdish positions in northeast Syria, an area where troops of the USA -led coalition are also based. The campaign against ISIS "is not over and that fight remains hard", he said.

Turkey launched Euphrates Shield in 2016 to drive away ISIS militants and the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia from its border with Syria.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, also said the patrols will begin Thursday adding that they follow days of Turkish shelling of positions of the main Kurdish militia. The continuation of Turkish attacks, the group said, would further delay the offensive on the ISIS-held pocket of Hajin. This assault has already forced Kurdish forces to retreat across the Euphrates river.

Training for the patrols was recently concluded and three United States defense officials told CNN on Tuesday that the joint patrols were due to begin in "a matter of days".

Two US military officials confirmed that the Turkish military had shelled SDF positions in northern Syria in recent days.

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In early June, Ankara and Washington adopted a road map envisaging the Kurdish forces' withdrawal from Manbij and the transfer of control over the Syrian city to Turkish and U.S. troops.

Turkish flags are seen atop military vehicles on the outskirts of Manbij, Syria, Nov. 1, 2018.

As a result of the road map, the Manbij Military Council announced in July that all Kurdish militia who were associated with YPG had left. He was referring to a Kurdish enclave taken earlier this year by Turkish troops and Turkey-backed Syrian opposition fighters.

Turkish and United States troops patrolled around the Saju Stream, which separates the Manbij frontline from the city of Jarabulus, an area falling under Turkey's Operation Euphrates Shield, according to media on the ground.

"The terror organisation should know that they will be buried in the trenches when the time and place comes", Mr Akar said.

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