Syrian army reinforced close to front with Turkish-backed forces

Syrian government troops backed by Russian forces have sent extra troops toward the city of Manbij in coordination with the militia that controls it, a militia spokesman said, as Turkish-backed Syrian rebels said they were preparing to attack it.

Syrian Democratic Forces and U.S. troops are seen during a patrol near Turkish border in Hasakah, Sy

Syrian Democratic Forces and U.S. troops are seen during a patrol near Turkish border in Hasakah, Syria November 4, 2018. (photo credit: REUTERS/RODI SAID)

ISTANBUL – Turkish-backed Syrian forces have reinforced the area around the town of Manbij, a rebel spokesman said on Monday, as they prepare for a withdrawal of US troops following Washington’s surprise decision to pull out of Syria.

The heightened military activity comes as Ankara and Washington have agreed to coordinate on the US withdrawal. US President Donald Trump’s abrupt decision has upended American policy in the region and set Turkey up for a broad push against Syrian Kurdish YPG forces across its border.

“Yesterday units from the Syrian National Army headed towards the Manbij front and took preliminary positions (in preparation) for the battle,” said Major Youssef Hamoud, the spokesman for the National Army, the main Turkey-backed rebel force in the area. The group is aimed at unifying disparate factions in northwest Syria.

Manbij has been a major flashpoint between Ankara and Washington. In June, the NATO allies reached an agreement that would see the YPG ousted from the town but Turkey has said the deal has been delayed.

President Tayyip Erdogan said on Dec. 14 that Turkish forces would enter the town if the United States does not remove the Kurdish fighters.

US forces still remain in Manbij, and the Turkey-backed fighters will not advance until they withdraw, Hamoud told Reuters.

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