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US Not Yet Training Turkish Forces for Joint Patrols in Syria


FILE - Fighters from the U.S-backed Syrian Manbij Military Council stand behind a sand barrier as they look toward a Turkish-backed fighters' position at the front line of Halawanji village, north of Manbij town, Syria, March 29, 2018.

U.S. service members have not yet started training Turkish forces for joint patrols near the volatile Syrian city of Manbij, despite U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis telling reporters last week that he expected them to start by Sunday night.

"We still have a few details to work out," Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Robert Manning told reporters Monday at the Pentagon, adding that "rehearsals for combined patrols" would begin "as soon as possible."

U.S. defense officials familiar with the training told VOA on Monday that the training site in southern Turkey was still being cleared.

FILE - Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis stands in front of a map of Syria and Iraq, while speaking to the media at the Pentagon, May 19, 2017.
FILE - Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis stands in front of a map of Syria and Iraq, while speaking to the media at the Pentagon, May 19, 2017.

Equipment and training officers are already in Turkey, Mattis told reporters traveling with him late last Thursday.

He said he expected the training to begin "within 72 hours," adding, "could be sooner."

The training is needed before U.S. and Turkish forces operating near Manbij can combine their patrols.

Right now, the two forces are conducting "coordinated but independent" patrols, according to the Pentagon.

It is unclear when U.S. and Turkish forces would start conducting the joint patrols in Syria once training of Turkey's troops is complete.

The city of Manbij houses Kurdish militia fighters. Washington supports the Kurdish fighters there, while Ankara says they are anti-Turkey terrorists.

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

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    Carla Babb

    Carla is VOA's Pentagon correspondent covering defense and international security issues. Her datelines include Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Korea.

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