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US, Turkey Conduct Second Joint Patrol in Manbij

FILE - Turkish and U.S. troops conduct joint patrols around the Syrian town of Manbij, Nov. 1, 2018.
FILE - Turkish and U.S. troops conduct joint patrols around the Syrian town of Manbij, Nov. 1, 2018.

U.S. and Turkish forces have completed their second joint patrol in the area of Manbij, Syria, where Kurdish militia have been critical to defeating Islamic State fighters.

Two U.S. military officials confirmed the patrols in northern Syria to VOA on Thursday. The first joint patrol was last week.

The convoy of dozens of troops patrolled northwest of Manbij along the demarcation line dividing Turkish-controlled territory from the area controlled by the U.S.-backed Manbij Military Council.

The Pentagon says the purpose of the patrols is to support "long-term security in Manbij" and uphold American commitments to NATO ally Turkey.

Since June, U.S. and Turkish forces conducted more than 60 of what defense officials have called "coordinated but independent" patrols in the area.

Ankara and Washington agreed on a road map to stabilize Manbij earlier that month, amid Turkish demands for the withdrawal of Kurdish militia who helped push Islamic State from the city in 2016.

Those Kurdish militia fighters, known as the People's Protection Units (YPG), are bolstered by Washington as part of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) countering Islamic State.

Ankara views the YPG, however, as the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which Turkey, the U.S. and European Union all consider to be a terrorist organization. The U.S. and the YPG reject that characterization.

As a result of the road map, the Manbij Military Council announced in July that all Kurdish militia who were associated with YPG had left the city.

Kurdish counter-IS fight suspended

Meanwhile, in eastern Syria's Deir el-Zour province, the SDF continues to suspend its offensive against IS over recent Turkish shelling.

Last week, Turkish forces struck several Kurdish militia targets near the town of Kobani, in northern Syria.

The SDF said it fired back in self-defense and destroyed a Turkish military vehicle.