US troops will not withdraw from Manbij, a strategically important city in northern Syria, a leading US military figure told CNN Sunday.
This means that US troops risk being caught up in Turkey’s military push into northern Syria should Ankara follow through with a pledge to advance into the area.
Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of the United States Central Command, said that withdrawing US forces from Manbij is “not something we are looking into.”
Manbij is a key flashpoint in northern Syria — located northeast of Aleppo and around 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of Jarabulus, which sits on the Syrian-Turkish border.
Turkey launched a ground operation across the border into Syria a week ago in an attempt to drive US-allied Kurdish militia from the area. The military incursion has raised tensions between Turkey and the United States, which supports and openly arms Kurdish militias fighting ISIS.
The confirmation of US commitment to Manbij comes as parties involved in the conflict prepare to meet in Russia-hosted peace talks in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
The Syrian National Dialogue Congress will take place over Monday and Tuesday, and will be attended by up to 1,500 delegates from across the Syrian political landscape, Russian state media says.
The UN’s special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, will attend, the world body confirmed.