Thursday a US special forces soldier, and a British SAS commando were killed, and five others wounded, when a roadside bomb was detonated in the Syrian city of Manbij next to a van with the soldiers.
The blast was actually rather small but deadly as the civilian Hyundai van is not armored. Locals speculate it may have even been a hand grenade attack and not a roadside bomb at all. Two Kurdish female fighters were also wounded in the attack. The attack took place late at night (past curfew) in what has been described as an “isolated” neighborhood with narrow streets.
This all sounds like the blast may have interrupted a randevous between the Anglo-Americans and the Kurdish females. This also means the motivation for the attack could have been personal. But if it wasn’t — if the attack was political it raises the question of who struck and why?
What were an Ami and a Brit doing with two YPJ members late at night in an unarmored vehicle in an isolated neighborhood of Manbij? Sounds like hanky panky that went bad. Bet the official report on this never sees the light of day.
— Richard L Naff (@Emrys56) March 31, 2018
Manbij region is under the control of Kurdish-dominated US-augmented SDF but is solidly Syrian Arab. The populace seemed to welcome the eviction of ISIS in 2016 (if not the widescale destruction visited on their city in the process) but there have also been a number of protests against the Kurds and Kurdish-appointed authorities where support for the national government in Damascus was expressed openly.
In August 2017 a new armed group, Harakat al-Qiyam announced its existence in Manbij and elsewhere in northern Syria and pronounced its intention to combat the SDF and expel Kurdish militias from Arab-majority northern Syrian regions. The group exhibits pro-rebel sympathies (rather than sympathies for the sitting Syrian government in Damascus) and is suspected to receive Turkish support, or may have even been initiated by the Turks. Since then they have carried out a few attacks against the Kurds in Manbij including using roadside bombs.
So who blew up the Anglo-American soldiers? Is this the start of a new guerilla war to evict the US from Syria?
3/ The blast that targeted coalition forces took place close to "Sheikh Akil graveyard" in #Manbij town around midnight Thursday/ Friday (See map).
— Jenan Moussa (@jenanmoussa) March 31, 2018
It could have been stay-behind ISIS remnants, however ISIS has not claimed responsibility for the attack which they almost always do when it’s them (and often when it is not).
It could have been a hitherto unknown pro-government group. As seen there is popular support for the Assad-led order in Manbij and such a group, devoted to expelling the Kurdish militias, has announced its existence in Kurdish-held Raqqa. Then again no such organization is known to exist in Manbij and this would have been their first strike.
Two @CJTFOIR personnel were killed and five wounded by an improvised explosive device March 29 in Syria. Our prayers are with their families, friends and fellow service members. Names of the deceased will be released at discretion of national authorities. pic.twitter.com/k7nnmdcWMV
— OIR Spokesman (@OIRSpox) March 30, 2018
Perhaps the most likely option, and certainly the most interesting one, is that this was the work of Harakat al-Qiyam or a similar outfit. Which would mean that a Turkish-backed group has killed American and British troops. On the frontlines outside Manbij Turkish-backed rebels regularly take potshots at US troops who regularly fire back. But so far these skirmishes have not caused any reported US casualties. Now it seems Turkish-backed guerillas operating from inside Manbij may have drawn blood. The tabloid Daily Mail says that UK military suspects just that:
SAS sources also revealed last night how the terrorists who planted the bomb could belong to the Free Syrian Army (FSA), an affiliation of militia, including jihadi elements, which is backed by Turkey. If the investigation into the incident concludes this was the case, it could lead to a diplomatic row with Turkey, a Nato member.
Even more intriguingly the tabloid claims Anglo-Americans have been clashing and sustaining casualties in Manbij for weeks now:
The Mail on Sunday has been told how other British Special Forces troops have been wounded in separate clashes with jihadis in Manbij in recent weeks – and that Sgt Tonroe and his colleagues had been due to withdraw from the area just days before he was killed. This was not confirmed by the MoD – it does not disclose any details about SAS operations.
This would mean there now exists a proxy war between NATO members US and UK, and Turkey which is killing American and British soldiers.This would truly be a fascinating development as it would mean there is a bloody NATO-on-NATO war. Or maybe it wasn’t Harakat al-Qiyam at all, but a fragging by a jealous boyfriend? The future will tell.