Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army fighters control the area between Afrin and Manbij. REUTERS/Osman Orsal
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Turkish President Recep Tayyib Erdogan threatened earlier in the day to extend its offensive eastward to Manbij, where U.S. forces are currently stationed.Although the U.S. does not have any forces in Afrin province, it deployed troops to Manbij March last year, following Kurdish forces taking control of the town in 2016 .The official role of the American troops is to provide the Kurds with training and support against any possible Daesh resurgence, but they have also until now been seen to provide a buffer against Turkish aggression.Tillerson has been moving to de-escalate the situation and improve relations after the United States' announcement of a 30,000 strong border force with the Kurds upset its key NATO ally.Turkey considers the Kurdish forces – which control around 25 percent of Syria in the northeast – of being allied to the Kurdistan Worker Party (PKK).
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