France has dispatched special forces to the northern city of Manbij near the Turkish border in an alleged bid to advise Syria Kurdish forces fighting Daesh terrorists, a French defense ministry source says.
“The offensive at Manbij (in Aleppo Province) is clearly being backed by a certain number of states including France. It’s the usual support – it’s advisory,” the unnamed official told AFP on Thursday.
The French troops are cooperating with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that is a coalition of Kurdish and Arab forces, the official added.
He further went on to say that the French special forces will not intervene militarily themselves and are not supposed to engage in combat with Daesh militants.
Last Friday, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had indicated that the French soldiers were helping an operation at Manbij, saying, “We are providing support through weapons supplies, air presence and advice.”
The strategic city of Manbij, located in Syria’s Aleppo Province, is a key point along Daesh’s main supply line from the Turkish frontier to its Syrian stronghold of Raqqah.
Last week, the SDF launched an offensive to push the Takfiri extremists out of Manbij.
According to the US military, the raid on Manbij is being led by 3,000 Arab fighters, 500 Kurdish forces and around 300 US special operations forces on the ground. The American troops are said to be acting as advisers while staying some distance back from the frontline.
Gains against terrorists in Manbij
In another development on Thursday, the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Syrian forces have surrounded Manbij from the north, east and south.
Smoke rises from Manbij, Aleppo Province, Syria, June 8, 2016. ©Reuters
Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the UK-based monitoring group, said the Syrian troops were advancing towards the main road leading west out of the Syrian city.
According to a Thursday statement by the SDF’s Manbij operations center, the Syrian forces were close enough to target Daesh positions inside the city.
A total of 132 Daesh elements and 21 SDF fighters had been killed since the start of the Manbij assault.
French special troops in Iraqi Kurdistan
France has also deployed around 150 members of its special forces to Iraqi Kurdistan.
French troops are accompanying Kurdish peshmerga forces to the frontline near the Iraqi city of Mosul. They are also said to be helping locate and neutralize improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and to handle guns supplied by France.
Paris is also part of a US-led coalition which has been striking so-called Daesh targets both in Iraq and Syria since 2014; however, the raids have done little to eliminate Daesh terrorists, killing, instead, many civilians and targeting infrastructure in both countries.
Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. Damascus regards a number of countries as the main supporters of the militants fighting the government forces in the Arab country.
Many European nationals are fighting within the ranks of the terrorist groups operating in Iraq and Syria, with 1,700 French citizens believed to be among the terrorists, latest figures show.