On March 13, the Turkish general staff said in a statement that the city of Afrin controlled by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) had been surrounded by the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) since March 12.
The statement added that the TAF and the FSA had captured “critically important areas” during the ongoing military operation in the area. The military also said that 3,393 “terrorists” had beeen neutralized since the start of Operation Olive Branch on January 20.
The YPG is currently in a very complicated military situation because its main stronghold is de-facto isolated from the government-held area, which includes the only supply routes that could be used by the group.
The YPG attacks Turkey-led forces:
— YPG Rojava (@YekineParastin) 12 March 2018
Earlier Turkish sources reported that the YPG was blocking civilians from fleeing the city of Afrin. Pro-YPG sources fiercely claim that these reports are fake news.
It is not clear how much civilians and YPG members remained in the besieged city. Different sources provide different numbers.
— Cemal (@Acemal71) 12 March 2018
Afrin’i terk etmeye çalışan sivil halk, teröristler tarafından zorla engellendi. pic.twitter.com/G7l8zKSZT8
— TSK (@TSKGnkur) 12 March 2018
On March 12, reports appeared that the YPG started handing over its checkpoints in the town of Tell Rifaat, the Menagh airbase as well as few nearby villages to the government’s National Defense Forces. However, these reports have not been confirmed by solid evidence so far.
This video allegedly shows government forces units moving to take control over the former YPG checkpoints:
On March 13, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that the US and Turkey will oversee the YPG withdrawal from the town of Manbij in another part of northern Syria.
The Hürriyet Daily News newspaper reports (source):
Speaking to reporters on his flight to Moscow, Çavuşoğlu said Turkey and the U.S. will decide on a plan to secure Manbij during talks on March 19. He also vowed that Turkish forces would go ahead with a military operation if those talks fail.
Turkey has not made any demands from the Syrian government regarding Manbij, Çavuşoğlu said, while adding that Ankara would “monitor” the return of weapons given to the YPG by the U.S., an issue that has strained ties between the NATO allies.