US coalition spokesman: Arabs are leading Manbij campaign, not Kurds

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SDF fighters are seen during clashes with ISIS militants in Syria's northeastern Hasakah province. Photo: ARA News

ARA News 

KOBANE – Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Col. Chris Garver on Friday stated that the Manbij campaign is led by Arabs and not Kurds.

“The [Kurdish] YPG is supporting the operation, but 2,000+ Syrian Arab fighters are leading the assault,” Colonel Chris Garver said.

He wrote on Twitter that stories suggesting that the SDF operation in Manbij is led by Kurds are inaccurate.

The SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces] consist of Kurds, Arabs, Christians and Turkmen. Backed by the US-led coalition, the SDF has regained large territory from ISIS northern Syria.  

Nevertheless, Colonel Garver said he did not want to marginalize the Kurdish contribution to the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS).

Speaking at a press conference in Kenya, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the U.S. assured Turkey that mostly Arab forces will conduct the operation in Manbij instead of the YPG. 

He said the Americans told Turkey, that 400 Kurds, and 2,500 Arabs are involved in the offensive.

In an exclusive interview with ARA News, Sheikh Farouk al Mashi, the co-head of the Manbij city council, also denied that the SDF forces fighting ISIS in Manbij are only Kurds, emphasising that over 2,000 Arabs are involved in the operation.

“I repeat again the SDF forces are not just a Kurdish militia, they are from all sects, nations, and we have Arabs, Kurds and also Turkmen. We formed together the SDF forces, and regarding the Manbij military council, it contains four FSA factions that lead the operation,” Mashi said.

“We are the Free Syrian Army and we fought ISIS in Manbij, in Kobane, and we contributed in liberating Kobane,” he said, rejecting accusations by the Syrian Coalition. “We are the original FSA and we have many sacrifices and martyrs in al Bab, Manbij, Ghouta, Damascus, in all cities. The Manbij people contributed to liberating many areas in Syria,” he told ARA News.

The co-head of Manbij city council also denied allegations by the Syrian activist group “Raqqah Is Being Slaughtered Silently” that Arabs are joining ISIS to protect Raqqa against Kurds. 

“This is very dishonest,” he said. “After terrorism, beheading, cutting the hand and areas, and torturing and killing Arabs, it would be impossible for people to join ISIS and back it. Now we are communicating with the people in Raqqa, Manbij and Jarabulus, and people are defecting from ISIS and joining the SDF. Without any doubt, all the Arabs will join the SDF,” he said.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg 

Source: ARA News 

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