U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters on Wednesday they will not abandon the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) despite the US deal with Turkey on Manbij.
“At the same time, the SDF was the only organization at the time that was able to throw ISIS off track and defeat them in the field in very, very tough fighting. And we will not simply cast that organization aside, because it is critical to stopping -- to defeating the ISIS caliphate now, which we've still not defeated,” he said.
“It is critical to destroying the physical caliphate that -- the operations that are going right now. And it's critical to preventing the rise of ISIS 2.0,” he added.
Currently, the SDF is fighting against the last ISIS pockets in Syria, in the Deir ez-Zor province, with the support of the US-led coalition.
However, he also added they working with Turkey to repair relations while at the same time working with the SDF.
“We are working out, how do we take -- again, Turkey, NATO ally -- how do we take Turkey's legitimate security interests and enhance their security? They are the only NATO nation with an active insurgency inside its borders,” he said.
“They're the front-line state for NATO on the -- on the front line of this disaster that Assad has visited upon his people in Syria, with the Iranians' help, the Russians' help. And we have got to find a way to work Turkey's legitimate interests,” he added.
“It's a complex issue. It's the most complex battlespace I've seen. But there's no doubt that we are working with Turkey to try and address their concerns -- at the same time, defeat IS. And it's a very difficult job, I'll be the first to admit. But we're doing it. We're working it, and we're ranking it with Turkey, not against Turkey,” he concluded.
On Thursday, coalition officials visited the town of Manbij to discuss the US-Turkey roadmap on Manbij. Local media reported that the Coalition officials promised the Manbij Civilian Council that Turkish-backed rebels would not enter Manbij.
The rebels have been involved in looting, kidnapping and infighting in Turkish-controlled areas in northern Syria.
The US and Turkey in a joint statement announced they approved a roadmap on Manbij on Monday after a visit of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to Washington. Advisors of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) left Manbij on Wednesday.