Syrian troops have been deployed in support of Kurdish forces around the strategic northern city on Friday. This came after the US announced its withdrawal from Syria. Nearly eight years into Syria's deadly conflict, the move marked another key step in President Bashar al-Assad's Russian-backed drive to reassert control over the country. A military spokesman said in a televised announcement that the army would be bent on "crushing terrorism and defeating all invaders and occupiers". More than 300 government forces deployed in the Manbij area, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Syrian army announced that it had raised the flag in Manbij, a strategic city close to the Turkish border where Kurdish forces have been deployed since 2016 and where US-led coalition forces are also stationed.
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Nura al-Hamed, deputy head of the Manbij local authority, told news agency AFP that the regime deployment was the result of Russian-sponsored negotiations. "The regime forces will not enter the city of Manbij itself but will deploy on the demarcation line" with Turkish-backed Syrian groups, she said.
Hamed said that US and French coalition forces stationed there remained at their positions and continued to conduct patrols.
The US military said the Syrian army had not entered the city itself.
"Despite incorrect information about changes to the military forces in Manbij city, (the US-led coalition) has seen no indication of these claims being true," US Central Command spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Earl Brown said.
The Syrian army's deployment creates a regime buffer arching across northern Syria that fully separates the Turkish army and its proxies from the Kurds.
Turkey reacted to the deployment by warning "all sides to stay away from provocative actions" while a large convoy of its Syrian auxiliaries were seen moving closer to the western edge of Manbij later on Friday.
US President Donald Trump's shock withdrawal announcement last week left the Kurds in the cold.
Trump's sudden decision sparked turmoil in his administration, prompting the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, as well as of Brett McGurk, the special envoy to the anti-IS coalition.
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Brett McGurk, the US envoy to the global coalition fighting the Islamic State group, resigned in protest over President Donald Trump's abrupt decision to withdraw US troops from Syria, a US official said, joining Defence Secretary Jim Mattis in an administration exodus of experienced national security figures.
McGurk had said it would be "reckless" to consider IS defeated and therefore would be unwise to bring American forces home. McGurk decided to speed up his original plan to leave his post in mid-February. Appointed to the post by President Barack Obama in 2015 and retained by Trump, McGurk said in his resignation letter that the militants were on the run, but not yet defeated, and that the premature pullout of American forces from Syria would create the conditions that gave rise to IS.