On June 4, 2018, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced that the United States and Turkey had agreed upon a roadmap for the future of Manbij, a town in northern Syria.1 Currently held by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a U.S.-backed Syrian group that includes fighters from the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), Manbij has been a sticking point in U.S.-Turkey relations since its capture from ISIS in late 2016.
After briefly covering the background of the issue of Manbij, this report aims to examine what can be expected from the roadmap and what possible stumbling blocks Washington and Ankara may face in implementing the agreement. Additionally, we look to what a successful implementation might mean for bilateral relations between the two NATO allies. If the roadmap announced by the United States and Turkey can be implemented in a sustainable fashion acceptable to all parties, it could mark an upswing in the bilateral relationship and possibly lead to an easing of tensions over Syria.
A small city in northern Syria, Manbij was under the control of ISIS until the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a grouping of U.S.-backed Syrians heavily dominated by the YPG, captured the city in August 2016. The YPG is the armed branch of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which Turkey considers to be the Syrian branch of the PKK (Kurdish Workers' Party), a terrorist organization that has been waging a war in southeastern Turkey for several decades.2 While the United States recognizes the PKK as a terrorist organization and Obama administration officials repeatedly admitted that ties exist between the PKK and the PYD, the Obama administration declined to end its support for the PYD.
The United States had begun communicating with the PYD via intermediaries by October 2014,3 but U.S. coordination with and support for the YPG began to greatly expand in 2015, when the Obama administration decided to move away from train-and-equip programs aimed at starting up new organizations in favor of supporting existing groups in Syria.4 The 2015 decision, which Turkey saw as a sign that the United States had never been committed to the train-and-equip program, fostered mistrust in an already strained relationship. As part of the new strategy, the Syrian Kurdish YPG and some Syrian Arab militias grouped under the Syrian Arab Coalition (SAC) established the Democratic Forces of Syria (later the Syrian Democratic Forces, SDF) in October 2015 and announced that they had been promised weapons and supplies by the United States.5 A U.S. official told reporters at the time that the group would launch an offensive down the eastern bank of the Euphrates River towards Raqqa, ISIS's capital city in Syria.6
Since then, the United States has maintained its partnership with the SDF and the YPG components of that organization. Under both the Obama and Trump administrations, Washington has equipped the SDF with supplies, vehicles, weapons, training, air strikes and other support. Since 2014, the SDF, and thereby the YPG, has expanded its territory to include all of the Turkish-Syrian border east of the Euphrates, giving it a 250-mile border with Turkey, and pressed south towards Raqqa and Deir Ez-Zor, capturing the Syrian town of Manbij on the west side of the Euphrates.
EVOLUTION OF U.S.-TURKISH RELATIONS
The status of Manbij and surrounding territories has been an issue between the United States and Turkey since even before the SDF began operations to recapture the city in June 2016. After the U.S. special envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition, Brett McGurk, made a trip to Kobani — confirmed in February 2016 — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan asked, "Am I your partner or are the terrorists in Kobane?"7 Turkish officials repeatedly stressed throughout 2015 and 2016 that they would not accept a Kurdish presence west of the Euphrates or attempts to establish a contiguous Kurdish statelet along the Syria-Turkey border. In both public statements and private meetings, U.S. officials offered guarantees to Turkey about the YPG and U.S. relations with the group. These statements included warnings to the YPG not to engage in any hostile action against Turkey and commitments to Turkey that the U.S. relationship with the SDF was temporary and transactional. Despite these U.S. assurances, Turkey remained concerned about the relationship and continued to try to persuade Washington of the adverse effects that its partnership with the YPG would have on the Turkish-American alliance and the region as a whole.
The SDF operation to retake Manbij threatened to cross Turkey's red line regarding a YPG presence on the western Euphrates. On June 1, 2016, U.S. officials told Reuters news agency that U.S.-backed groups in the SDF had begun operations to retake what they called the "Manbij pocket," the area surrounding the town of Manbij. However, the official stated that YPG forces comprised only a fifth or sixth of the total SDF forces and that "after they take Manbij, the agreement is, the YPG will not be staying."8 Ahead of the operation to take Manbij, in April 2016, a U.S. delegation including diplomats and military officers reportedly visited Turkey to discuss the planned operation.9 In May, the United States reportedly brokered a meeting between SDF and Turkish officials to allow the SDF to launch the assault on Manbij without triggering a Turkish military response.10
Speaking in June at the commencement of the SDF operation to retake Manbij, President Erdogan said Turkey had been told that the YPG would largely act as a "logistical force," but the Turkish military and intelligence community would be closely watching developments in Manbij.11 In comments to Turkish broadcaster TRTHaber, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in June 2016 that the United States had given guarantees that YPG forces would not remain on the west bank of the Euphrates after anti-ISIS operations were completed.12
Following the capture of the city on August 12, Turkey began calling on the United States to hold to its agreement to force the YPG to pull back east of the Euphrates. On August 15, Foreign Minister Cavusoglu reiterated that Turkey had been promised by the United States that the YPG would withdraw and that Turkey expected to see the group cross back east of the river.13 However, following the operation, the United States did not take any steps to fulfill this promise. Moreover, the Manbij Military Council, established following the capture of the city by the YPG, comprised and was dominated by YPG elements. On August 22, Turkey shelled YPG forces in Manbij in order to "open a corridor for moderate rebels," part of Turkey's Operation Euphrates Shield.14 On the twenty-third, the Turkish Foreign Ministry reported that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had spoken with Foreign Minister Cavusoglu and assured him that YPG elements of the SDF were withdrawing east of the river.15
During Operation Euphrates Shield, a number of U.S. officials reiterated the assurance that the YPG would withdraw east of the river. During a visit to Turkey on August 20, 2016, the day that Operation Euphrates Shield was launched, Vice President Biden declared that YPG forces in the SDF "under no circumstances will get American support if they do not keep" the aforementioned promise to return east of the Euphrates River.16 Shortly after Biden's comments, U.S. Army General Joseph Votel, the head of U.S. Central Command, (CENTCOM) told reporters on August 30 that the Kurdish members of the SDF had "lived up to their commitment to us" and had returned to the east bank of the Euphrates.17 A short-term ceasefire was eventually established on August 30 between Turkish-backed FSA groups and the U.S.- and YPG-backed forces in the area.18 In multiple instances, Turkish policy makers reiterated that the current state of affairs in Manbij was a national-security threat to Turkey, given the increasing hostile actions of the PKK alongside the border and terror attacks by the PKK in Turkish city centers. In addition, the YPG has been accused of changing the demographic composition of the captured lands through forced evictions and deportations, generating a significant refugee flow to Turkey.19
Since the establishment of the ceasefire in late August 2016, tensions have remained high among the various factions, exacerbated by the growing presence of Syrian government forces south of both Turkish-backed FSA positions and SDF positions in 2017 and 2018. While there were some initial expectations that the Trump administration might change or reverse some Obama administration policy decisions on Syria, it has instead followed a strikingly similar policy throughout 2017 and into 2018 and increased support for the YPG ahead of the Raqqa offensive. Furthermore, major figures in the anti-ISIS campaign who were appointed by the Obama administration continued their tenures during the Trump administration, including Brett McGurk, special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, and General Votel, commander of CENTCOM, which oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East. Both McGurk and Votel have become controversial figures in Turkey due to their comments on and commendations for YPG members in Syria. For Turkey, the continuation of the tenures of these officials has meant the continuation of the similar policies.20
One of the critical turning points in relations regarding Manbij was Turkey's Operation Olive Branch in Afrin, Syria. The operation was launched following the Pentagon's announcement that a border-protection force comprising members of the SDF would be formed.21 The operation raised concerns that Turkey would expand its military operations in northern Syria to include Manbij or other areas under YPG/SDF control, heightening tensions in northern Syria. The Turkish president and other officials repeatedly suggested that, after capturing Afrin, Turkey might turn its attention towards SDF territory, Manbij in particular.22 While the United States maintains outposts in Manbij, largely seen as firebreaks to prevent clashes between Turkish and SDF forces, President Erdogan warned in February 2018 that Turkey would not change its course of action in the region, "regardless of the U.S. presence."23 During Operation Olive Branch, both the Pentagon and State Department released statements expressing concern in regard to potential civilian casualties in the war.24
The tensions over Manbij and the war of words between Ankara and Washington led to increased diplomatic traffic early in 2018, however. The January phone call between Presidents Trump and Erdogan was followed by the visit of Secretary of State Tillerson and National Security Advisor McMaster to Turkey in February 2018. This was followed by a meeting between Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Minister Canikli.25 During Tillerson's meetings, the United States and Turkey took steps to mend ties, a trend that has continued under Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Following Tillerson's visit to Turkey in February 2018, the United States and Turkey announced that they would be forming a number of working groups to address specific issues the bilateral relationship.26 The first working-group meeting, on March 8 and 9, focused on addressing disagreements over Syria. A U.S. State Department official told reporters that a "goal is for the U.S. and Turkish governments to reach an agreement on how security can be provided in Manbij."27
WHY MANBIJ MATTERS
The issue of Manbij has been so difficult to resolve in part because, while it is important to both the United States and Turkey, it is important for different and perhaps mutually exclusive reasons. These differing reasons for the value of Manbij are a distillation of broader differences in how Washington and Ankara view the conflict in Syria. The United States, under both the Obama and Trump administration, has largely viewed Syria as a counterterror campaign focused on the defeat of ISIS. While the Obama administration initially was involved in anti-Assad efforts and the Trump administration has spoken to the importance of combating Iranian influence, U.S. tactics and strategy in Syria have largely been focused on coordinating, supporting and maintaining anti-ISIS efforts. In 2016, the Manbij pocket was particularly important to the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition; at the time, it served as one of the remaining conduits for foreign fighters seeking to join ISIS in Syria.28 It additionally was seen as key to the eventual goal of moving south towards Raqqa. In 2018, maintaining stability in Manbij is seen as crucial to preventing a resurgence of ISIS in the area.
While Turkey similarly sees ISIS as a serious threat, having experienced a campaign of terror and rocket attacks from across the Turkey-Syria border when ISIS controlled it, Turkey has additional serious concerns about how PYD empowerment in Syria might embolden the PKK in southeastern Turkey. For Turkey, the defeat of ISIS cannot come at the price of the rise of an empowered PYD-run Kurdish statelet along its southern border that would similarly threaten Turkish security and stability. Forcing the withdrawal of YPG forces back east of the Euphrates will help Turkey maintain the currently limited expansion of PYD territory in northwestern Syria.
THE ROADMAP AND WHAT'S NEXT
While the details of the Manbij roadmap announced by the United States and Turkey on June 4 remain unclear, and U.S. and Turkish officials have given some conflicting statements, one clear development of the deal is this: the YPG will withdraw from Manbij, and Turkey and the United States will contribute to the stabilization process alongside members of vetted local groups.29 According to Turkish reports, there will be three phases of this process. In the first, U.S. officials plan the methodology of withdrawal of the YPG from Manbij, the structure of force composition, the division of labor between U.S. and Turkish forces, and distribution of the area of responsibility. In this planning phase, the parties will also decide the entry time of Turkish forces to the city. The second phase of the roadmap will include the withdrawal of YPG members from the city. The final phase will involve the establishment of the local administration in two steps. Following the formation of an interim local administration after the return of refugees to Manbij, there will be elections.30 The planning phase of the roadmap was negotiated in Stuttgart, Germany, where officials agreed on a "Manbij Implementation Plan."31
Following the announcement of the roadmap in Washington on June 6, 2018, the YPG announced that its military advisers would withdraw from Manbij.32 The YPG statement claimed that YPG fighters had withdrawn from Manbij in November 2016, in line with its statements at the time, but that advisers had remained to train the Manbij Military Council (MMC), a group allied with the SDF. While Foreign Minister Cavusoglu said that the YPG forces withdrawing from Manbij would be disarmed, the United States did not confirm that as part of the agreement.33 Turkish sources had said that after a 10-day preparation period until June 15, YPG elements in Manbij would withdraw over the next 20 days. However, U.S. officials have not confirmed that and have instead offered a more vague timeline.34
Officials from both Turkey and the United States have said that as part of the agreement, the United States and Turkey will begin joint patrols along an existing demarcation line around Manbij, though U.S. officials were vague on a timeline for those patrols and the YPG withdrawal.35 On June 18, U.S. CENTCOM and the Turkish military both confirmed that Turkey and the United States had begun patrolling the demarcation line north of Manbij and were planning to begin combined patrols in the future.36 Additionally, Turkish officials suggested that the MMC would be reformed, without YPG elements, and run by leaders acceptable to both Turkey and the United States.37
Perhaps the biggest question around the roadmap is how and when it will be implemented. As noted, U.S. officials have offered a more open-ended timeline as compared to their Turkish counterparts, who have proposed concrete deadlines. Speaking on June 12, U.S. Secretary of Defense Mattis stated that the United States is "prepared to go forward with the collaboration," starting with determining where U.S. and Turkish forces are stationed in the area and then "patrols on each side, saying 'I see you, you see me' and then probably some kind of collaborative patrols inside that pocket."38 Following meetings between U.S. and Turkish officials in Stuttgart, on June 12 and 13, the Turkish military said that the two sides had agreed on a "Manbij Implementation Plan,"39 U.S. and Turkish forces in Turkey began patrols along the demarcation line around Manbij.40 The meetings and reports of patrols suggest that the roadmap is being implemented rapidly and in line with the comments made by both U.S. and Turkish officials, including Secretary of Defense Mattis and Foreign Minister Cavusoglu.
This roadmap is not the first time Turkey and the United States have announced that they have reached an agreement on northern Syria. Previous agreements, however, have often turned out to be less concrete than they were initially portrayed. In May 2016, ahead of the U.S.-backed SDF assault on Manbij, Turkey proposed a joint U.S.-Turkish operation to close the Manbij pocket without the involvement of the YPG.41 Again in 2017, this time under the Trump administration, Turkey proposed a joint U.S.-Turkish operation to retake Raqqa instead of the U.S. plan to rely on the SDF.42
Of course, the question of trust remains — not just between the United States and Turkey, but among their local partners on the ground. While YPG fighters will leave Manbij as part of the agreement, other members of the SDF and the Manbij Military Council who have trained and fought with the YPG will stay in Manbij. This poses a problem for Turkey. An important area where the United States and Turkey may disagree is the organizational affiliation of some members of the council. There needs to be a solid agreement on both sides regarding the vetting process.43 Under the agreement, the Manbij Military Council, according to Foreign Minister Cavusoglu, will be reorganized with the approval of Turkey and the United States. If the agreement is to hold and stability is to be maintained in Manbij, the United States and Turkey will have to find ways to ensure that the reformed local security forces in Manbij have functioning working relationships with both the United States and Turkey and to enfranchise the various local factions in the Manbij area.
In addition to the force structure and composition of the Military Council, there are questions in regard to the composition of the local political administration. Turkey has been concerned since the beginning of the territorial expansion of the PYD territories about possible demographic intervention and engineering, an issue reported by independent human-rights organizations.44 As the refugees from these areas captured by the YPG predominantly sought asylum in Turkey, a main point of the agreement for Ankara is that the refugees from the areas under this agreement, such as Manbij, should be able to return to their homes and that the local administrations should represent the original ethnic distribution prior to the conflict. If the United States and Turkey cannot agree on the ethnic composition of the region, this could become a sticking point in the implementation of the agreement. There is also the risk of provocation by the pro-PKK members of the local administration.45
In addition, there are questions in regard to Turkey's next step of the war against terrorist groups along its border. Operation Olive Branch and Operation Euphrates Shield, as well as the Manbij agreement, were conducted in order to remove the YPG presence on Turkey's borders. However, northern Syria east of the Euphrates is still under the control of the YPG, a situation Turkey still sees as a national-security issue. Furthermore, one of the promises of the United States was that it would repossess the ammunition and weapons provided to YPG forces following the end of anti-ISIS operations.46 In the days following the implementation of the initial phases of the roadmap, the Turkish side will be insistent on a new "roadmap" about the repossession of the YPG's weapons.
Finally, there are concerns on the Turkish side over a possible interagency struggle on the U.S. side in regard to the implementation of the plan. For the past five months, there have been indications of disputes in Washington over relations with Turkey and the YPG and Syria. In January, Secretary of State Tillerson denied the statements of Pentagon officials regarding the establishment of a border-protection force.47 In March, President Trump's announcement that the United States would withdraw from Syria was contradicted by the statements of other officials and military officers.48 Additionally, CENTCOM commander Votel offered an assessment to Congress that significantly contradicted the Syria strategy pronounced by Secretary Tillerson in his Stanford address.49 Finally, it was reported recently that CENTCOM and EUCOM are having major disagreements about the handling of Turkey's security concerns.50 The mixed messages from different U.S. agencies could generate another element of confusion for Turkey in this delicate implementation period. Despite the agreement on the roadmap, there are still concerns in Turkey over the close rapport between CENTCOM personnel on the ground and YPG members. Past glorification of YPG members by CENTCOM and pro-YPG social-media posts by CENTCOM's communications department have generated significant irritation in Turkey in the last two years. During the implementation of the roadmap, the Turkish side will be closely watching the statements and actions of CENTCOM and other U.S. organizations.
For the United States, there are questions that remain about the status of Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army Forces (TFSA) and whether they will be deployed to Manbij under the June 4 roadmap. Previously, the two countries had difficulty agreeing on a vetting process for Syrian opposition fighters. While the United States has reportedly worked with some of the groups that have participated in Operation Euphrates Shield and Operation Olive Branch as part of the TFSA, there have been conflicts in the past. In September 2016, a number of U.S. special forces, deployed to the border town of al-Rai in support of Turkey's Operation Euphrates Shield, were forced to withdraw from the town due to protests by some of the TFSA forces.51 In 2017, U.S. troops patrolling near TFSA-controlled areas around Manbij as part of efforts to prevent conflicts with the SDF were fired upon a number of times and on at least one occasion, in August 2017, they fired back at the TFSA.52
The question of whether the Manbij roadmap can be applied elsewhere is as of yet difficult to answer. While better cooperation between the United States and Turkey would benefit both, there are a number of roadblocks to applying the Manbij model elsewhere in Syria, such as Tel Abyad. The most pressing question is whether the Manbij roadmap will be successfully implemented in Manbij itself. If the two NATO allies can reconcile their apparent misunderstandings and resolve whatever problems emerge during the implementation phase of the roadmap in Manbij, a conversation can start for the potential application of this methodology and cooperation in other areas captured by the YPG. A broader application could generate a win-win situation for both the United States and Turkey as well as the region as a whole. Tension will decline following such coordination between diplomatic and military officials on both sides. It will also help stabilize the war-torn territories of Northern Syria and prevent the emergence of another civil war over the ethnic composition of the territories. The normalization of life in these territories will also help the fight against terrorism and prevent the emergence of new rogue armed groups. In the case of a successful implementation of the plan in Manbij, the spread of the same method will help to resolve the concerns of Turkey about its border security.
Another major obstacle to adapting the Manbij roadmap to other cities and towns in Syria, particularly those east of the Euphrates and in what Turkey sees as the "corridor of terror," is that the PYD is much more established in those areas. While Manbij, under the Manbij Military Council, was governed as though it were part of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, the nascent governance framework established in northeastern Syria, it was not officially incorporated into the DFNS. While Operation Olive Branch in Afrin province has demonstrated that the PYD/SDF would likely be incapable of standing up to a Turkish assault, it is questionable whether the United States would be able to convince its Syrian proxy to agree to withdraw from those territories as it did in Manbij.
There are also questions regarding the geopolitical implications of the roadmap's implementation. First, there is Iran. The withdrawal of the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and Secretary Pompeo's speech on a new Iran strategy indicated that the Trump administration is planning to engage with Iran in a new and different fashion.53 Contrary to President Obama's focus on the nuclear issue, the new administration aims to approach Iran in a broader way that will address Iran's destabilizing activities in Syria and the broader Middle East. Following the announcement of the roadmap in a speech, Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell stated that, "On a long-term basis, Turkey is the only country in the region with the throw weight to counterbalance Iran."54 Within Turkey, there are questions about what Assistant Secretary Mitchell meant by counterbalancing Iran and whether U.S. policy in Syria will entail any demands from Turkey in regard to Iran. The issue of countering Iranian activism in Syria has appeared in some policy speeches of U.S. officials, but the government has not offered concrete details on how it aims to do that. Given the differing approaches of Turkey and the United States towards Iran, if Washington aims to take any steps to counter Iran and its proxies in the region, it will be another major agenda item in Turkish-U.S. relations.
There is another important part of the puzzle in regard to Northern Syria: Russia. In his speech, Wess Mitchell reiterated that Turkey should be kept on a "Western strategic track," underlining concern about the increasing cooperation between Russia and Turkey.55 It is probable that these concerns were shared by EUCOM as it sought to resolve the crisis over Manbij with Turkey. After the roadmap was announced, there were questions about how Russia would react to the agreement. Although there have been no negative remarks from Russia, it is clear that Moscow will closely watch the increasing cooperation between Turkey and the United States. In the case of a potential spillover of this cooperation, Russia's concerns may heighten. Turkey has developed a pattern of establishing working relationships with different countries at the same time in regard to the fight against the PKK and YPG. In Qandil, Turkey tried to work with Iran; in Sinjar, the Iraqi government cooperated with Turkey; in Afrin, Turkey reached an agreement with Russia; and in Manbij, Turkey and the United States designed a roadmap for the expulsion of the YPG. However, it will also be important how these multidimensional attempts at cooperation and coordination will be perceived by Russia, and how they might influence Russian-Turkish cooperation elsewhere in Syria.
WHAT THE AGREEMENT MEANS
The Manbij agreement is a major step forward in bilateral relations that had been derailed as a result of developments over the last three years, including the divergence in Syria, the dispute over U.S. military assistance to the YPG, and the Gulen issue. The U.S. alliance network had already experienced significant crisis in recent years because of the increasing skepticism among U.S. allies about the U.S. recognition of its commitments. The "red line" incident of President Obama, the increasing unilateralism of U.S. foreign policy and the Trump factor aggravated already existing tensions. The increasing unpredictability and uncertainty in U.S. foreign policy generated questions among traditional allies. For Turkey, this problem was more acute because of the crisis taking place on Turkey's southern borders.
Although the United States and Turkey have emphasized their strategic partnership following each presidential summit, and the condition of their relationship has been described as strategic convergence but tactical divergence, the state of their ties signaled a major disruption of the alliance. Many started to argue that the divergence in Manbij could impact the areas where the two countries cooperate, such as stabilization efforts in Afghanistan and the Russian annexation of Crimea. Mutual trust between the two allies was devastated by the disagreement over Manbij. It was not a coincidence that the Turkish president time and again publicly asked the United States to pick its partner in Syria.
There is a realization that the utility of nonstate armed groups in Syria has run its course. As anti-ISIS operations in Syria wrap up, the stabilization, reconstruction and reconciliation of the communities necessitate cooperation among state actors that can commit their resources for long-term goals in the region. Turkey and the United States need one other's support in this phase to address common threats, including terrorism, that are exported by failed states. The two countries' experience of working in these environments, from Somalia to Afghanistan, provides grounds for the adoption of these shared experiences in Northern Syria.
Thus, this agreement over Manbij has generated a cautious sense of optimism in the Turkish security establishment and government about the future of its alliance with the United States. The fact that the U.S. European Command became so deeply involved in these negotiations and that NATO issued a statement praising the agreement demonstrates how crucial it is to maintaining the relationship between the two.56 The crisis in Manbij could have endangered not only the alliance between the United States and Turkey but also U.S. relations with many other allies who saw it as a test case of the U.S. commitment to their security. This agreement and its rapid and smooth implementation may foster a revival of the alliance between Turkey and the United States.
The June 4 Manbij roadmap is a milestone in U.S.-Turkey relations, which in the past several years have been characterized more by tension. The agreement demonstrated that diplomatic mechanisms still matter in resolving difficult problems between countries. In the last few years, especially due to interagency problems in the United States, the Turkish side started to consider the diplomatic process a futile avenue. Crisis management and resolution in relations took place only at the highest level, between presidents. The Turkish side saw that even summits often failed to bring a solution. The new agreement proved that sub-presidential diplomacy can make a significant impact in changing the state of the relationship. In fact, the roadmap can be seen as a sign that the working-groups framework established by the United States and Turkish governments may help resolve some of the major issues plaguing the bilateral relationship. Focused efforts to address the issues at levels lower than the presidential seem to have helped resolve at least one major problem.
1 Josh Lederman and Suzan Fraser, "U.S., Turkey Say Plan Reached to Resolve Rift over Syria Town," AP News, June 4, 2018, https://apnews.com/0f8abc48a2094548b4fdeafc33468e7c/US,-Turkey-say-plan….
2 Suleiman Al-Khalidi and Lisa Barrington, "U.S.-Backed Forces Wrest Control of Syria's Manbij from Islamic State," Reuters, August 12, 2016, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-islamic-state-i….
3 Jen Psaki, "Daily Press Briefing: October 7, 2014," U.S. Department of State Archives 2009-2017, October 7,2014, https://2009-2017.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2014/10/232676.htm.
4 Missy Ryan, Karen DeYoung, and Craig Whitlock, "Pentagon Plans Major Shift in Effort to Counter the Islamic State in Syria," Washington Post, October 9, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/pentagon-plans-s….
5 Suleiman Al-Khalidi, "New Syrian Rebel Alliance Formed, Says Weapons on the Way," Reuters, October 12 2015, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-kurds-idUSKCN0S….
7 Vahap Munyar, "Is Your Partner Turkey or PYD, Erdoğan Asks U.S.," Hurriyet Daily News, February 7, 2016, http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/is-your-partner-turkey-or-pyd-erdogan-….
8 Phil Stewart, "Exclusive: U.S.-Backed Syria Forces Launch Offensive for Manbij Pocket — U.S. Officials," Reuters, June 1, 2016, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-offensive-idUSK….
9 Ugur Ergan, "Turkish, American Delegations Meet to Seek a Formula over PYD Role," Hurriyet Daily News, April 4, 2016, http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-american-delegations-meet-to-s….
10 Maria Abi-Habib and Margaret Coker, "U.S. Compromises Won Turkey's Backing for Kurdish-Led Offensive," Wall Street Journal, July 14, 2016, https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-compromises-won-turkeys-backing-for-ku….
11 "Turkish Intel 'Closely Watching' Anti-ISIL Operation Near Its Border: Erdoğan," Hurriyet Daily News, June 2,2016, http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-intel-closely-watching-anti-is….
12 "U.S. Guarantees No PYD Presence West of Euphrates after Ops on ISIL: Turkish FM," Hurriyet Daily News, June 7, 2016, http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/us-guarantees-no-pyd-presence-west-of-….
13 "Turkey Expects Syrian Kurdish Forces to Withdraw after Manbij Operation: Minister," Reuters, August 15, 2016, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-turkey-manbij/t….
14 "Turkey Strikes Islamic State, YPG Militants to Open Corridor for Rebels: Official," Reuters, August 22, 2016, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-turkey-operations-idU….
15 Humeyra Pamuk & Umit Bektas, "Turkey Fires on U.S.-Backed Kurdish Militia in Syria Offensive," Reuters, August 23, 2016, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-turkey-idUSKCN10Z07J.
16 Karen DeYoung, "Biden Warns Kurds Not to Seek Separate Enclave on Turkish-Syrian Border," Washington Post, August 24, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/biden-visits-turkey-on-mission-to-….
17 Carla Babb, "Kurds East of Euphrates Now, Top U.S. General Says," Voice of America, August 30, 2016, https://www.voanews.com/a/turkey-kurdish-forces-critical-in-islamic-sta….
18 "Ceasefire Holding between Turkey and Kurdish Fighters in Syria," Reuters, August 30, 2016, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-ceasefire/cease….
19 "Syria: PYD Accused of Changing Demography in Manbij," Anadolu Agency, August 14, 2016, https://www.aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/syria-pyd-accused-of-changing-demo….
20 Benjamin Harvey, "Turkey Calls on Trump to Fire Obama Appointee McGurk," Bloomberg News, May 18, 2017, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-05-18/turkey-calls-on-trum….
21 Tom Perry and Orhan Coskun, "U.S.-Led Coalition Helps to Build New Syrian Force, Angering Turkey," Reuters, January 14, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-sdf/u-s-led-coa….
22 See "After Taking Afrin, Turkey Looks for New Targets in Syria" in The Economist and "Erdogan Says Turkey May Extend Afrin Campaign along Whole Syrian Border," in Reuters.
23 "Syria Conflict: U.S. and Turkey Agree to Avert Manbij Clash," BBC News, February 16, 2018, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-43084963.
24 Terri Moon Cronk, "Turkey's Assault on Kurdish Fighters Concerns United States, Officials Say," DoD News, January 25, 2018, https://www.defense.gov/News/Article/Article/1424359/turkeys-assault-on…; and Heather Nauert, "Concern over the Situation in Afrin, Syria," U.S. Department of State, March 19, 2018, https://sy.usembassy.gov/concern-situation-afrin-syria/.
25 "Readout From Secretary James N. Mattis' Bilateral Meeting With Turkish Minister of Defense," U.S. Department of Defense, February 15, 2018, https://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/14….
26 Tracy Wilkinson, "Tillerson Offers Working Group on Disputes with Turkey," Los Angeles Times, February 16, 2018, http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-essential-washington-updates-….
27 Sevil Erkus, "Turkey-U.S. to Convene a Working Group to Fix Bilateral Disputes," Hurriyet Daily News, March 8, 2018, http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-u-s-to-convene-a-working-group-….
28 Suleiman Al-Khalidi and Lisa Barrington, "U.S.-Backed Forces Wrest Control of Syria's Manbij from Islamic State," Reuters, August 12, 2016.
29 Josh Lederman and Phillip Issa, "Kurdish Militia to Exit Syria's Manbij under US-Turkey Deal," AP News, June 4, 2018, https://apnews.com/99161aac539f4ff3b2f7be86f5d64ef1/Kurdish-militia-to-….
30 Necdet Ozcelik, "The Manbij Agreement and Beyond," SETA Perspective No. 42, SETA, June 2018, https://setav.org/en/assets/uploads/2018/06/42.-Perspective.pdf.
31 "Turkish, U.S. Military Officials Agree on Plan for Syrian Town," AP News via Washington Post, June 14, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/turkish-us-military-of….
32 "YPG Confirms Withdrawal from Syria's Manbij after Turkey-US Deal," Al Jazeera, June 5, 2018, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/06/ypg-confirms-withdrawal-syria-ma….
33 "Turkey Says Kurdish Militants Leaving Syria's Manbij Will Be Disarmed," Reuters, June 5, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-turkey/turkey-says-kurdish-milit….
34 "Turkey, U.S. to Discuss Military Implementation of Manbij Roadmap at Stuttgart, Mattis Says," Daily Sabah, June 11, 2018, https://www.dailysabah.com/diplomacy/2018/06/11/turkey-us-to-discuss-mi….
35 Josh Lederman and Phillip Issa, "Kurdish Militia to Exit Syria's Manbij under US-Turkey Deal," AP News, June 4, 2018.
36 "Statement from U.S. Central Command on the Manbij Roadmap," US Central Command, June 18, 2018, http://www.centcom.mil/MEDIA/STATEMENTS/Statements-View/Article/1553579….
37 Josh Lederman and Phillip Issa, "Kurdish militia to exit Syria's Manbij under US-Turkey deal," AP News, June 4, 2018.
38 "U.S. Ready for Manbij-Focused Roadmap with Turkey: Mattis," Hurriyet Daily News, June 12, 2018,http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/us-ready-for-manbij-focused-roadmap-wi….
39 "Turkish, U.S. Military Officials Agree on Plan for Syrian Town."
40 "Turkey Begins Military Patrols around Syria's Manbij: Army," Agence France-Presse via Yahoo, June 18, 2018, https://www.yahoo.com/news/turkey-begins-military-patrols-around-syrias….
41 "Turkey Offers U.S. Joint Syria Operation, without the Kurds," Agence France-Press via Hurriyet Daily News, May 30, 2016, http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-offers-us-joint-syria-operation….
42 Humeyra Pamuk, "Turkey Sets Out Raqqa Operation Plans to U.S.: Report," Reuters, February 18, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-turkey-syria/turkey-s….
43 Necdet Ozcelik, "The Manbij Agreement and Beyond," SETA Perspective,no. 42 (June 2018), https://setav.org/en/assets/uploads/2018/06/42.-Perspective.pdf.
44 "We Had Nowhere Else to Go: Forced Displacement and Demolitions in Northern Syria," Amnesty International, October 13, 2015, https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/mde24/2503/2015/en/.
45 Necdet Ozcelik, "The Manbij Agreement and Beyond," SETA Perspective No. 42, SETA, June 2018.
46 "Son dakika... Pentagon YPG'ye verilen silahlarla ilgili açıklama yaptı," CNN Turk, February 1, 2018, https://www.cnnturk.com/dunya/son-dakika-pentagondan-kilis-aciklamasi.
47 "Tillerson Says U.S. Has No Intention to Build Border Force in Syria," Reuters, January 17, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-turkey-usa/till….
48 Abigail Williams, "Trump, Advisers Offer Mixed Messages on Syria — Just Minutes Apart," NBC News, April 3, 2018, https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/white-house/trump-advisers-offer-mixed….
49 Geoffrey Aronson, "CENTCOM Commander Admits Failure in Syria Strategy," American Conservative, March 26, 2018, http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/centcom-commander-admit….
50 Mark Perry, "America's Fling With the Kurds Could Cause Turkey and NATO to Split," The American Conservative, April 16, 2018, http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/americas-fling-with-the….
51 Richard Hall, "U.S. Special Forces Were Reportedly Run Out of a Syrian Town," Public Radio International, September 16, 2016, https://www.pri.org/stories/2016-09-16/us-forces-are-making-rebel-enemi….
52 "U.S. Coalition Exchanged Fire with Rebels in Syria: Spokesman," Reuters, August 29, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-coalition-idUSK….
53 Mike Pompeo, "After the Deal: A New Iran Strategy," U.S. Department of State, May 21, 2018, https://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2018/05/282301.htm.
54 A. Wess Mitchell, "Anchoring the Western Alliance," U.S. Department of State, June 6, 2018, https://www.state.gov/p/eur/rls/rm/2018/283003.htm.
56 Ragip Soylu, "U.S. European Command mediates Manbij talks between Turkey, CENTCOM," Daily Sabah, June 12, 2018, https://www.dailysabah.com/diplomacy/2018/06/12/us-european-command-med…; and "NATO Welcomes Turkish-U.S. Agreement on Manbij Roadmap, Stoltenberg says," Daily Sabah, June 6, 2018, https://www.dailysabah.com/diplomacy/2018/06/06/nato-welcomes-turkish-u….