Syrian govt forces enter western Manbij following agreement with Russia

The Russian General Staff on Friday confirmed the takeover by Syrian government forces (SAA) of an area in western Manbij (in orange) from the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Sergey Rudskoy, chief of the Russian General Staff’s main operations department, in a press conference said that following negotiations with the Manbij Military Council (MMC), a component of the SDF, a strip of land in Arima in the western Manbij countryside had been left to government forces.

In a statement on Thursday the MMC had confirmed reaching an agreement with Russia for the withdrawal of their troops and said it was to protect civilians and “defend Manbij against Turkey’s invasion plans.”

“To reach these objectives we have transferred, after reaching a new alliance [agreement] with Russia, the defence of the line to the west of Manbij – where the villages between us and the gang groups [FSA] affiliated to the Turkish army are – to Syrian state forces,” the group’s statement read.

Russia mediated between Turkey and the Syrian government to stop FSA attacks on government positions in Tadef to the south of al-Bab, following the capture of the town last week. The move means that FSA groups will share a border with the SAA at the west of Manbij, while there are thought to be US soldiers stationed to the northwest of Manbij to prevent attacks by the FSA on SDF positions.

The agreement between the SDF and Russia has been viewed as de-escalating violence and preventing Turkish-backed FSA advancement in the area.

Turkish officials and media have portrayed the incident as the complete handover of Manbij, a multi-ethnic city with a population of 100,000. The city was taken from the Islamic State by the majority Kurdish-Arab SDF in August 2016.