You’d think the prospect of two NATO members coming into direct military conflict with each other would be a major news topic, but nobody seems to be taking it seriously.
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As quoted by CNN, while on a trip to the Middle East, U.S. Central Command Chief General Joseph Votel responded by saying pulling U.S. forces from Manbij is “not something we are looking into.”
Reuters claims the U.S. has around 2,000 military personnel in northern Syria supporting an umbrella of organizations dominated mainly by Kurdish fighters.
On Saturday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned that the U.S. needs to withdraw from the area immediately. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also said on Friday that Turkish forces would sweep Kurdish fighters from the Syrian border and expand their offensive all the way to Iraq’s border, including Manbij, which would put the U.S. military in direct confrontation with its NATO ally.
The United States “needs to break its link with (the) terrorist organization and make them drop their weapons completely. They need to collect the weapons they gave, they need to withdraw from Manbij immediately,” Cavusoglu said, according to Reuters.
Ankara further claimed that U.S. national security advisor H.R. McMaster said Washington would no longer provide the Kurdish YPG militia with weapons. Turkey views the YPG as a terrorist organization and refuses to tolerate an independent Kurdish state on its borders. Turkey sees this as a bigger threat than ISIS.
According to CNN, Manbij is a “key flashpoint in northern Syria,” which is located northeast of Aleppo and around 25 miles south of Jarabulus, another key area on the Syrian-Turkish border.
As is typically the case, Washington’s efforts to fan the flames of an already tense conflict come at a time when Russia is attempting to organize peace talks. Even the U.S. Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, is set to attend.
CNN also notes that the White House version of a phone call between U.S. President Donald Trump and Turkey’s Erdogan on Wednesday has already been a source of tension. According to the White House’s readout of the call, Trump “urged Turkey to exercise caution and to avoid any actions that might risk conflict between Turkish and American forces.”
Cavusoglu, on the other hand, believes Erdogan urged Trump to withdraw troops from Manbij.
“The US is engaged with the Turkish government at all levels to develop a solution which addresses Turkey’s security concerns and ensures there is no decrease in pressure on ISIS,” Department of Defense spokesman Eric Pahon told CNN.
For those trying to understand who is in the right and who is in the wrong in this conflict, the answer is simple. Both parties are wrong and should withdraw their troops immediately considering the territory belongs to Syria. Syria has not approved of their illegal troop presence.
But don’t expect CNN to explain this minor detail anytime soon.