Mattis says US troops to remain in Manbij

Mattis says US troops to remain in Manbij

The US will continue to work with Turkey at "the highest levels and all the way down through the military level", US Defense Secretary James Mattis said during a visit to the Pentagon's press office. 

Mattis said there has been no change in terms of Turkey's pressure on Manbij in response to a question about Turkey's concern over the presence of PYD/PKK terrorists there. There are about 2,000 American soldiers in Manbij.

"Obviously, there is a lot of concern there because of what we heard out of Ankara. But right now, our goal is to keep the pressure on [through] the counter ISIS campaign and keep the campaign going, Mattis said, describing Turkey's planned military operation in Manbij as a "distraction" from the fight against ISIS.

Describing Turkey as "the only NATO ally with an active insurgency inside its border with the PKK terrorist group," Mattis said the US is working with Turkey on its legitimate security concerns not just with the PKK but also along the Syrian border, which has been turned into a battlefield by the Bashar al-Assad regime. 

"Turkey has legitimate concerns, and the US is working with Ankara. But at the same time, Washington wants to stay on ISIS right now," he added.

Mattis also said he will meet with his Turkish counterpart Nurettin Canikli in Brussels next week. "We will continue to work with our NATO ally, and I will see their Minister of Defense in Brussels next week," Anadolu Agency cited Mattis as saying.