Boughaz is around 1.5km (1 mile) east of Olashli. The Free Syrian Army’s Sultan Murad Division, a mainly Turkmen group heavily backed by Turkey, said on March 6 that it had taken control of Olashli, a claim disputed by pro-Kurd ANHA news agency, which said that MMC fighters had repelled the attack, and that attacks were ongoing on Olashli, Boughaz and Yalanli.
FSA group Jaysh al-Nukhba (“Elite Army”, until January 2017 known as Jaysh al-Tahrir) also released a statement saying Olashli had fallen and that it had killed four members of the Kurdish YPG, the main component of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.
The US said the deployment was part of what it termed a ‘reassurance and deterrence’ mission.
Pentagon spokesperson Navy Captain Jeff Davis said on March 6: “We want to have a visible show that we are there in order to deter all parties from fighting anybody other than ISIS and to reassure that ISIS has been driven from Manbij.”
“Manbij is liberated, and there’s no need for further fighting there,” he added, a reference to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s repeated statements that Turkey would take the area by force.
The deployment aims to keep the peace between the YPG units within the SDF, and FSA and Turkish military units.
Davis did not specify the number of troops involved, saying only that it’s fewer than dozens and that they include conventional forces working in support of special operations units that have been in the area for months.
Grasswire geo-located images of the US convoy on its way to Manbij on March 5, the day before the Pentagon admitted they were there.
On March 6, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım suggested that Operation Euphrates Shield could cease due to Russian and US support for the SDF.
“Without coordination with the US and Russia in Manbij, there is no point in continuing operations,” he said, adding that Russian and US flags were flying over Manbij, ARA News reported.
Yıldırım also suggested the establishment of a Turkey/Russia/US joint mechanism aimed at removing any remaining Kurdish YPG presence from the area. Turkey sees the YPG and the PYD political party as terrorist organisations, extensions of the Turkish PKK in Syria.
PM Yıldırım: "It is great misfortune that the YPG & PYD have been preferred as a partner by some of Turkey's allies." https://t.co/oUvkrbghZ8
The US and Russia do not consider the YPG or PYD to be terrorists. Lt Gen Stephen Townsend, commander of the coalition against Islamic State, said on March 1 that he believed the YPG posed no threat to Turkey. “I have seen absolutely zero evidence that they have been a threat to or supported any attacks on Turkey from northern Syria over the last two years,” he said.