On February 24, an unnamed Syrian security forces source told the Russian news outlet Sputnik that the Damascus government and the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) had reached an agreement, which allows the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) to deploy forces in the city of Manbij, over 75km east of the Afrin area.
“The agreement was reached, under which the Syrian Arab Republic’s army will enter the city of Manbij, controlled by the SDF,” the source said, according to Sputnik.
This agreement between the Damascus government and the SDF is likely aimed at countering any future attack of the Turkish Army on Manbij. Top Turkish officials, including the Turkish president, have stated on several occasions that Manbij will be the next target of the Turkish Army after the operation in Afrin.
Sputnik reported on February 22 that the Damascus government and the YPG had agreed on the transfer of control over the town of Tell Rifaat and the villages around it to the SAA. Later, Nouri Mahmud, a spokesman of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) confirmed that the SAA indeed deployed several units in the town.
Currently, several units of the US-led coalition are deployed in key positions around Manbij. They conduct patrols around and even inside the city on a regular basis. Units of the SAA’s border guards also have several observation posts west of Manbij.
Observers believe that the implementation of the alleged agreement between the Damascus government and the SDF will not be easy, as the US-led coalition may not accept an increase of the SAA presence in the area of Manbij.