Syrian government forces entered Manbij (Aleppo province) on Friday, December 28, according to Syrian state media. The move comes amid threats of a Turkish offensive targeting the town and nearby areas in northern Syria, controlled by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). However, US-led anti-Islamic State (IS) coalition forces and SDF fighters denied claims that Syrian government forces had entered the town. Heightened tensions are to be expected around Manbij in the near term.
The claims notably come after US President Donald Trump announced the US's intent to withdraw US troops from Syria. The US Department of Defense and White House staff confirmed the decision, though it is unclear how long the withdrawal process will take.
The SDF is a US-backed umbrella group of militias, led by the primarily Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), and a belligerent in the Syrian Civil War. The SDF has ousted IS from several areas formerly under its control, notably including Raqqa, Al-Tabqah, and Manbij. IS has lost most of the territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria after suffering major military defeats following its 2014 offensive.
To date, the Syrian Civil War - which began in 2011 - involves many parties, including the Syrian government, the Russian government, the Iranian government, the Turkish government, a US-led coalition, and numerous armed groups on the ground (including the Islamic State) with competing goals.
Due to extremely poor security conditions, Western governments generally advise against all travel to Syria, with some banning travel to the country. Professional security advice and support should be sought prior to any travel to Syria.
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