Focus should be on ISIS, US warns forces around Manbij

Mark Toner, deputy spokesperson for the US State Department

Mark Toner, the deputy spokesman for the US State Department, has urged all forces active in and around the northern Syrian town of Manbij to focus their efforts on the Islamic State (IS) group amid a convergence of several hostile forces in the region.

“you’ve got multiple forces in such a small, confined space, we want to avoid any unnecessary or unintended escalation in what is already a very tense and dynamic situation,” Toner told journalists.

After their capture of al-Bab from IS, the Turkish army and its allied FSA factions moved eastwards towards the Manbij Military Council-controlled town of Manbij, something Turkish leaders said would happen after victory in al-Bab.

Yesterday Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis said that US army presence should reassure Turkey that there was no Islamic State (IS) presence in Manbij and that “there is not a need for others to advance on it in attempts to ‘liberate’ it.”

After initial clashes with Turkish-backed FSA resulting in casualties on both sides, the Manbij Military Council announced last week that it had reached an agreement with Russia to transfer the defence of the line to the west of Manbij (Arima) to Syrian government forces.

“So we are sending a message to all forces that are there on the ground to remain focused on the counter-ISIS fight and concentrate their efforts on defeating ISIS and not towards other objectives that may detract from the coalition’s ongoing campaign,” deputy spokesperson Toner warned.