Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Washington on June 4 and worked to end a dispute over the presence of Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) troops in Syria.
Just after the meeting, on June 5, the YPG released a statement agreeing to withdraw its remaining forces, and claiming its fighters had already left in November 2016, except for military advisers working with the Manbij Military Council.
“The agreement is that the YPG cadre that are involved in governance will withdraw and move, and they can be replaced by locals who are mutually agreeable,” said a senior State Department official, during a meeting on the U.S.–Turkish Working Group on Syria.
Turkey had become temporarily hostile to the United States for its support of the Kurdish fighters and threatened to move its own troops to northern Syria near Manbij where they could have risked an engagement with U.S. troops.
After the meeting, however, it appeared that Pompeo was able to cool the tensions, and the two leaders established a “roadmap” for Manbij as the conflict in Syria winds down. The YPG will disarm and withdraw to the east of the Euphrates river. Turkey and the United States will provide security in Manbij going forward.
A second State Department senior official stated in the transcript that the roadmap is for the “phase after ISIS,” and noted the significance of Manbij, stating, “When ISIS was launching major attacks in the streets of Paris and Brussels, they would train teams in Syria; they would organize in Manbij to infiltrate and carry out these attacks in cities of our partners.”
The official said, “This was a major threat coming out of Manbij from ISIS—a threat to our partners in Europe, a threat to Turkey.”
With the YPG agreement to withdraw, the official said, “we’ve managed to de-escalate some tensions.”