Kurds set up new civilian council for recapturing Syria’s Manbij from ISIS

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Militant fighters of the Islamic State in Manbij, Syria. File photo

ARA News 

ERBIL – A new civilian council was set up for Manbij city on Tuesday after a meeting in the town of Serrin in northern Syria. “We the sons of Manbij and its people after Daesh’s [ISIS] seizure of it two years ago have been forced to flee from its oppression,” said Sharvan Darwish, a Kurdish senior commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who participated in the meeting. 

In 2013, a joint Kurdish-Arab-Turkmen city council was established in Manbij to run the city after the departure of pro-Assad forces. However, on 23 January 2014, the Islamic State group (ISIS) took over the city, and the council was expelled. 

“But after the formation of the military council [announced on Sunday], the peoples of Manbij from all its components decided to form a civilian council to undertake administration of the city’s affairs after its liberation and undertake what is necessary to aid the military council and likewise serve the people of Manbij,” Darwish told ARA News.  

Now 43 representatives of the Kurds, Turkmen and Arabs met in Manbij, and elected Faruq al-Mashi, an Arab, and Sozdar Xelil, a Kurd, as co-presidents of the civilian council, with three deputies: Gharib Rajab, and Saleh Haj Muhammed, representing the Arab community, and Abdo Mustafa Ali representing the Kurds.

One of the goals of the council is to remove ISIS from the territory. “Working to rout Daesh and rebuilding the ruins of its ideological and structural damage in society,” the newly established council said in a statement. “The council works to return displaced persons to their abodes and homeland,” the council said.

Analysts say the formation of the council shows the willingness of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces to retake the city of Manbij from ISIS, despite of Turkish opposition. 

Previously, on 3 April, also a military council was formed for Manbij, headed by Adnan Abu-Amjad as a general commander. 

Speaking to ARA News, Nicholas Heras, a Washington-based Middle East researcher at the Centre for a New American Security, said: “It is clearly a critical component of the larger strategy to displace and replace ISIS in Manbij. The formation of the council is the result of a demand signal sent by the United States for its local Syrian partners in the anti-ISIS campaign to establish a working transitional governance structure for areas liberated from ISIS.” 

“The US does not want a resurgence of ISIS in areas liberated from it, and one critical component of preventing ISIS resurgence is to have the socio-politics of its successor government worked out from before the campaign against the Manbij pocket is initiated,” he added.

Experts suggest that the United States will most likely back the Kurds to retake Manbij from the Islamic State. 

“A few days ago a military council was formed. These are the preparations for the attack on Manbij,” Kurdish affairs analyst Mutlu Civiroglu told ARA News. “It seems the US and the SDF have agreed to carry out a big operation towards Manbij, especially after the Brussels attack,” he added. 

Dr Jonathan Spyer, the director of the Rubin Centre in Israel, agreed.

“It also appears that the US is offering tentative backing to the Manbij plan. It will be interesting to examine the Turkish position on this,” Spyer told ARA News. “It’s a gamble by the PYD [Kurdish Democratic Union Party] and its allies,” he added.

US seeks to close ISIS major pocket northern Syria, supports Kurds to retake Manbij

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are preparing for a major offensive to retake the city of Manbij from the Islamic State (ISIS). 

A spokesman for the US-led coalition, which backs the SDF in its war on ISIS, told ARA News that for the US “it’s critical that the ISIS-held Manbij pocket of 98-kilometers” is seized from the radical group.

“As to why the Manbij pocket is important, it represents a major border crossing point where foreign fighters can cross into Syria from Turkey,” said Colonel Christopher Garver, a spokesperson for the US-led coalition against the Islamic State. 

“In regards to a plan to retake Manbij, I don’t want to speak about potential future operations for obvious security reasons, but if there is a pocket of the ISIS out there on the battlefield, we of course want to attack it to root them out,” Col. Garver told ARA News.

The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, reported that there are negotiations going on between Turkey and the United States over the Manbij operation.

In the meantime, Peter Cook, Spokesman for the Pentagon, on Monday did not want to give details about the meetings between Turkey and the US over Manbij. “I let the Turkish government speak [on that subject],” he said. 

“Turkey remains a critical partner in the fight against ISIS and a critical NATO ally and we work closely with Turkey in range of fronts,” he added.

The Turkish government opposes that Kurdish forces cross into Manbij, although the newly formed Manbij Military Council [announced on 3 April] not only consists of Kurds, but also Arabs, Turkmen, and other minorities.

“To show respect to your sacrifices and resistance in the face of terrorism and tyranny, we hereby announce our commitment to fight side by side with you in order to defeat terrorism and liberate our dear city of Manbij and its countryside from the fist of ISIS terrorists where Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, and Circassians used to coexist peacefully before the occupation,” Adnan Abu-Amjad, the commander of the Manbij Military Council, said in the announcement of the new council.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg 

Source: ARA News 

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