Syrian rebels retook the city of Manbij from the Islamic State this weekend, effectively shutting off the terrorist group’s main corridor for the recruitment of foreign fighters.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter congratulated the Syrian rebels in a statement Monday, saying: “Their success, enabled by critical coalition support, is another significant milestone in the campaign to deal ISIL (ISIS) a lasting defeat.”
Manbij, which is located near Syria’s northern border with Turkey, was a key hub for foreign fighters entering the so-called caliphate through Turkey, and was one of ISIS’s last major bastions in the region. Foreign fighters would go to the city to be processed by the terrorist group before being sent to the front lines in Syria and Iraq. Carter noted the city was also used for “external operators plotting attacks” against the U.S. and its partners.
“The success in Manbij city will also help reinforce the growing isolation of Raqqa and enable us to achieve the next objective of our campaign in Syria – collapsing ISIL’s control over that city,” said Carter.
The city’s remaining residents celebrated the collapse of ISIS Sunday, with men cutting their beards, women burning their heavy clothing and smoking, which they were not allowed to do during the ISIS reign.
In his statement, Carter made a point to thank the Turkish government for its support in the operation to retake the city. Unfortunately, Turkey has a tenuous relationship with the mostly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which served as the main military force behind the operation. Turkey had previously expressed its concern with the Kurds, a historical enemy, controlling territory along the Turkish border.
Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Monday that his country expects the Kurdish forces to withdraw from the area now that ISIS has been defeated.
“The U.S. promised that the (Syrian Kurdish) forces within the coalition and democratic forces there would move east of the Euphrates again following the Manbij operation,” Cavusoglu told reporters Monday.
Carter’s statement did not include any information as to whether or not the SDF would remain in the city.
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