A day after rumors circulated that the Syrian regime would move into Manbij, things seemed more calm in the city. The US met with the local military council. According to reports there are now discussions about whether the local forces and wider SDF should hand over weapons the US-led Coalition supplied. “Planning is ongoing, and focused on executing a deliberate and controlled withdrawal of forces while taking all measures possible to ensure our troops’ safety,” a source said.
US Senator Marco Rubio has now been quoted as saying that the US might slow its withdrawal. It was supposed to take up to 100 days, but some like Rubio want to make sure US partners are not abandoned. Kurdistan24 reports that Rubio said: “We are outsourcing the fight against ISIS to the Turks….[but their] priority is to wipe out the Kurds, whom they view as a threat.”
The US Dept. of Defense now says “the next phase of US support to the
#Coalition‘s operation in #Syria is a deliberate, well thought-out, mutually supportive, and controlled withdrawal of forces while taking all measures possible to ensure our troops’ safety and protection.”
Lindsey Graham has indicated that the changes in eastern Syria could be a disaster.
In addition Yazda, the Yazidi organization, expressed concern over the US withdrawal.
A new report at The Intercept is doing rounds on social media with some claiming that it shows the US partners on the ground, the YPG and SDF, were not as romantic as some claimed they were. The piece seems timed to justify the US leaving Syria and handing over the area either to Turkey or the Syrian regime. It accuses the YPG of conscripting children, and other abuses.
This narrative is paired with one asserting that the YPG has always been connected to the Assad regime, selling it oil or allowing Syrian regime forces to remain (as they did in Qamishli and Hasakah).
There is new speculation that the US withdrawal will be matched with a new push for Israel-US-Turkey relations to confront Iran. John Bolton is supposed to be coming to Israel and Turkey to supposedly cement that new concept.
Turkish delegation arrives in Moscow for Manbij talks.
It includes Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, MİT head Hakan Fidan and Presidential advisor İbrahim Kalın.
Russia has praised the US withdrawal. “The pullout of foreign forces from Syria, which are stationed there without Damascus’ consent is a step in the right direction”, the Russian envoy said. Moscow continues to assert that the Syrian regime is in control of Manbij.
“We approach Ankara’s plans for conducting more anti-terrorist operations in eastern Syria from the standpoint of uprooting the remnants of terrorism in Syrian territory and restoring the territorial integrity and sovereignty of that country. We will discuss the situation that is taking shape in connection with the United States’ declared troop pullout from Syria with Turkey’s foreign minister and defense minister in Moscow on December 29. We will tell you afterwards what we’ve talked about,” Lavrov said.
A buffer zone? Some wonder if Russia and Turkey will agree to a buffer zone, as some reports indicated.
Russia says US withdrawal may reveal “crimes” in Raqqa
Russia asserts that with US leaving, the “crimes” of the Coalition will be unveiled. “Both the Syrian government and international humanitarian and human rights organizations will have to long and thoroughly deal with all this and other ‘heritage’ left after the illegal American presence in Syria,” the source said to TASS. The Tass report from Moscow has more details. Russia has critiqued the US role in Raqqa in the past, claiming that the US left the city a ruin and that diseases and terror would spread from there. In October 2017 Russia made similar comments and also in November of November of 2018.