Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) engaged in clashes with ISIS militants in Manbij. Photo: ARA News
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QAMISHLI – A Pentagon spokesman on Monday for the first time confirmed that the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are pushing into the city of Manbij.
“Despite continued ISIL resistance, those forces have begun their push into the city which is surrounded on all sides now and they have begun clearing ISIL defenses in the city’s outskirts,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said, using another acronym for ISIS.
According to local sources, SDF forces are now one kilometer from the main market in Manbij, and have broken through ISIS defences south of the city.
“In the last four weeks since the beginning of the ground operation to assault the city of Manbij began, coalition forces have conducted 246 strikes in support of local ground forces,” Cook said.
The Pentagon spokesman said that there is no change in the make up of the SDF forces.
“My understanding is that the makeup of the forces has remained the same. This has been an Arab-led force from the start and continues to be, and they are the leading effort, again, pushing into the city at this time,” Cook said.
Moreover, he said that local fighters from Manbij in the future will control Manbij, not Kurdish fighters coming from outside Manbij, like Kobane.
“This is an Arab-led force that’s in there … this is home territory to some of the fighters who are fighting in there. The plan for these forces was they would hold this territory afterwards,” he said.
On 31 March, 3,000 fighters of the Manbij Military Council launched an operation to defeat ISIS in Manbij. The Kurds and the US-led coalition say that cutting of ISIS access to Manbij would mean taking away a major foreign fighter hub from ISIS, and would also be an important step for the coalition to push to the self-proclaimed ISIS capital of Raqqa.
The Kurds also hope they can use the Manbij operation to in the future push towards al-Bab city, and open a corridor between Kobane and the besieged enclave of Afrin.
Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg
Source: ARA News