Perspective: The Manbij Agreement and Beyond

What was the strategic importance of Manbij for the United States, the PKK/PYD, and Turkey? What topics will be covered by the roadmap in Manbij? How sincere is the U.S. with Turkey about its PKK/PYD policy? Will U.S. military activity in Sinjar Mountain jeopardize Manbij Agreement?

Few knew about Manbij before the rift between two NATO allies, Turkey and the United States over the disputes in Syria. Manbij is a small city which had a population of 100.000 in the 2012 census, which only included the city center.1 Manbij is located 30 km west of the Euphrates River, 40 km south of the Turkish border, and 50 km north of the Syrian regime-controlled areas in eastern Aleppo. The city was controlled by the Moderate Syrian Groups until the DAESH surge in 2014 and then was gradually occupied by the PYD elements when the Turkish Forces were busy fighting against DAESH in Syria and the PKK in Turkish territory in 2015 and 2016. The Manbij issue now plays a significant role in easing the Turkey-U.S. relations under a mutually agreed mechanism. Within the bilateral mechanism, several working groups are expected to reach solutions to a series of problems between the two countries such as the extradition of FETÖ leader and other FETÖ affiliates; Turkey’s purchase of air defense systems (S400) from Russia; the U.S. covert sanction of Turkish defense procurement; and the case of Pastor Andrew Brunson. The first Working Group will focus on solving the Manbij issue and it is given special importance in the hope that its positive effects will spill over into the other realms of relations. Even though, there is still ambiguity concerning the implementation of the Manbij deal between Ankara and Washington, the strategic implications of the emerging understanding between the two countries might develop in multiple dimensions. However, it is too early to speak of future positive developments in other areas before the Manbij deal is implemented without any problems. Manbij is a small framework of complicated actions by multiple state and non-state actors in pursuit of their own interests. Therefore, the Manbij deal is expected to answer the question of whether the opportunity for cooperation can surpass the risks of conflict…

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