US Central Command General Joseph Votel visited the Kurdish city of Kobani and the Raqqa front on Friday to meet with US officials and also officials of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who are leading the operation to take the Islamic State (IS) stronghold in Syria.
According to local sources, officials of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a major component of the SDF, told Joseph Votel that they will end the operation to capture Raqqa from IS and revert their attention to Manbij, if Turkish and Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces attack the northern Syrian city.
Turkey and the FSA groups it is backing recently captured the town of al-Bab to the east of Manbij and have been threatening to attack the SDF, who liberated Manbij from IS in August 2016.
Turkish officials have made contradictory remarks on the issue with some saying Turkey’s foray into Syria would end in al-Bab and others pushing for the Euphrates Shield operation to continue to Manbij and Raqqa.
Manbij is under the control of the majority Kurdish-Arab SDF and has been incorporated into the autonomous administration in northern Syria (Rojava). The same fighting force, an ally of the global anti-IS coalition, is also close to encircling Raqqa, which is further to the south.
Analysts have said Ankara is intent on preventing what it perceives to be a “Kurdish entity” from emerging on its border while at the same time expanding areas under the control of Syrian Opposition forces (FSA), thus strengthening its influence in the region.
Responding to speculation that the US-led anti-IS coalition could revoke its support to the SDF and instead go ahead with a Turkish plan to capture Raqqa, several military officials rejected the claims.
However a local source has told Kom News that fears this could happen are still prevalent amongst leading YPG-SDF figures and that they were on alert in case of a “comprehensive Turkish attack on the autonomous cantons and region in northern Syria.”