A stunning development in the key northern Syrian city of Manbij — the Pentagon has confirmed a planned handover to Russian military forces is underway amid a Turkish military assault on the region. This also hours after President Trump tweeted that Assad "wants naturally to protect the Kurds" and that the problem should be left to local powers.
Late Monday the main US base in Manbij was filmed empty of US forces, and American convoys were also spotted hastily pulling out of the city as Syrian national forces entered, following Sunday's historic deal between the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Assad government. Newsweek reports the developments follows:
The U.S. military has begun a hasty exit from Syria's northern city of Manbij, and is set to help Russia establish itself there amid a Turkish attempt to defeat Kurdish-led, Pentagon-backed fighters at the strategic location, Newsweek has learned.
As the Syrian national flag went up over multiple previously US-backed SDF towns on Monday, it was as yet unclear what Russia's role in all this would be. Through Monday there were also widespread rumors that Russian jets were circling over key border posts as Turkish forces shelled Kurdish positions below.
The Newsweek report suggests, as we predicted, the blistering fast developments clearly are being driven by significant Russian deal-making among all parties, surprisingly including the US, apparently:
A senior Pentagon official told Newsweek that U.S. personnel, "having been in the area for longer, has been assisting the Russian forces to navigate through previously unsafe areas quickly."
A Pentagon official says #Manbij will be handed over to #Russia as Russian journalist Oleg Blokhin films a video of the abandoned #US military base in the town.— Aylina Kılıç (@AylinaKilic) October 15, 2019
And the US coalition spokesman has now confirmed much of Newsweek's reporting, announcing a "deliberate withdrawal" from Manbij and northeast Syria, saying, "We are out of Manbij".
Coalition forces are executing a deliberate withdrawal from northeast Syria. We are out of Manbij. // تقوم قوات التحالف بتنفيذ إنسحاب مدروس من شمال شرق سوريا. لقد غادرنا منبج— OIR Spokesman Col. Myles B. Caggins III (@OIRSpox) October 15, 2019
This will of course make it impossible for pro-Turkish forces to take the town, and it's likely that Erdogan may have been privy to Russian plans from the start.
"It is essentially a handover," the official continued to Newsweek. "However, it's a quick out, not something that will include walk-throughs, etc., everything is about making out with as much as possible of our things while destroying any sensitive equipment that cannot be moved."
Local footage aired by RT showed the unprecedented moment a retreating column of US forces from Manbij passed a truck full of Syrian Army troops, headed the opposite direction.
US forces had helped its SDF partner force administer Manbij since liberating the mixed majority-Arab town from ISIS in 2016.
It's remarkable that President Trump has apparently ordered the rapid handover to Russian and Syrian national forces, which is likely to bringer a quicker end to the now over eight-year long war than was expected.
Meanwhile it appears that after five years Raqqa is also now back under Syrian government control.
Raqqa. the Islamic State's capital for three years before US & SDF forces drove it out, is back under Syrian government control - witnesses. Military vehicles driving around.— Liz Sly (@LizSly) October 15, 2019
This just as the White House has authorized sanctions on Turkey over the "destabilizing actions" related to its 'Operation Peace Spring' in northeast Syria.