US top general praises anti-ISIS forces in Manbij

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Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) engaged in clashes with ISIS militants in Manbij. File photo: ARA News

ARA News 

MANBIJ – Commander of the US Central Command General Joseph Votel, and the US secretary of Defence Ash Carter, praised the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and promised that the US-led coalition will investigate reports that suggested at least 50 civilians were killed in coalition airstrikes last Monday and Tuesday.

With respect to Manbij, I’ve been extraordinarily pleased with the performance of our partner forces.  This is, as the secretary said, has been a very difficult fight. This is an area that the Islamic State is trying to hold on to,” General Votel said.

“And what I’ve been most impressed with is the deliberateness and the discipline with which our partner forces have conducted themselves.  They are moving slowly, they are moving very deliberately, mostly because they’re concerned about the civilians that still remain in the city of Manbij,” he said in praise of the SDF forces.

“I think that speaks very highly of their values and it speaks very highly of what they’re — of what they’re about here.  And I think we’ve picked the right partners for this operation,” he concluded.

Moreover, the US-led coalition promised an investigation into the possible civilian casualties in Manbij. “I think the important thing I would stress is that we will conduct an investigation on any possible civilian casualties in this matter, as we always do, and we’ll be transparent about that,” US Secretary Carter said. “We’ll investigate these reports and continue to do all we can to protect civilians from harm.” 

“That is because that is the reflection of the values that we bring to this campaign, the values of the countries you saw in that room today who want to behave and conduct themselves in a civilized manner, and that means –when you’re– there’s a possibility of something like civilian casualties, you promptly investigate it and are transparent about it.  That’s what we’re going to do,” he added.

However, General Votel stressed that the alleged coalition airstrikes that killed civilians is no indictment of the intelligence community. “It is an extraordinarily dynamic situation up around Manbij right now, as we talked about a little bit earlier.  So it’s a very difficult fight,” he said.

Both the Syrian government and the opposition have condemned the air strikes that were allegedly carried out by French fighter jets.

On Thursday, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) gave ISIS a 48 hours ultimatum to leave the city of Manbij with their light weapons, in order to stop the urban battle and protect civilians.

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