The Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) has withdrawn all of its forces from the frontline with the northern city of Manbij, which is held by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported on January 2.
According to the UK-based monitoring group, FSA forces were redeployed to several “temporary bases” in the Euphrates Shield (ES) area in the northern Aleppo countryside. Most of these temporary bases are schools and public buildings.
“The situation on the frontline, between the Turkish forces and its proxies on one side and the Manbij Military Council (MMC) and the Revolution Army [both part of the SDF] on the other side, has returned to what it was before the announcement of the Turkish plans to launch an attack on Manbij,” the SOHR reported citing local sources.
Last week, the Syrian Step News Agency reported that Turkey had ordered FSA groups to withdraw from the vicinity of Manbij. The news agency said that Ankara backed-off from its plans to attack the city as a result of the high-level Russia-Turkish meeting, which was held on December 30.
Moscow and Washington, which kept its forces in the Manbij area, apparently managed to deter Ankara, which was seeking to sweep into northeastern Syria after the upcoming withdrawal of U.S. forces.