With Turkey’s imminent invasion of Kurdish territory in northeastern Syria expected to begin any day, the Kurdish YPG has quickly secured a new alliance with the Syrian government. Within short order, the Syrian Army has arrived in the city of Manibj, on the Euphrates River, to help with its defense.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is reporting that this first deployment is of over 300 Syrian troops, with military spokesmen saying they are to deploy on the city’s outskirts with the goal of “defeating all invaders and occupiers.” There are US and French troops still within the city of Manbij itself, and Turkish-backed rebels advancing on the city from the north, with the expectation that this will be the first target of the new Turkish invasion.
US officials confirmed that “dozens” of US troops remain in the city, and have seen no sign of the Syrian forces trying to enter. Though the US is nominally aligned with the Kurds, the withdrawal is coming at the behest of, and in coordination with, Turkey.
Turkey, naturally, is objecting to this new deployment, insisting that the Kurdish YPG have “no authority” to invite anyone else into Manbij, and claiming it was destabilizing the region. As Manbij is on the western shore of the Euphrates, Turkey has long ruled out allowing Kurds to remain there, though with most of the upcoming invasion targeting Kurds east of the river, this boundary means increasingly little.
At any rate, it’s unlikely that the Kurdish YPG considered themselves to need any particular authority to request the help of Syria’s military to protect a Syrian city from foreign invasion. It’s also difficult to argue that resisting an invasion amounts to “destabilizing” anything.
Syria’s Army similarly sent troops to the Afrin District to try to help them resist a Turkish invasion. This failed, though the district is immediately along the Turkish frontier, and far from Syrian supply lines, which limited their ability to support the defense.
Manbij, by contrast, is a major city and right on major highways. Syria has a military presence not far south to call reinforcements, and after Russia warning Turkey against the invasion, may well be able to call in Russian support as well.
The hope, at least for now, is that the presence of these troops will deter a Turkish invasion, as the presence of US troops in Manbij previously had. Turkish officials have been very public on their intention to invade, however, making it unlikely that they’ll not launch some sort of offensive against the area.