Opposition commander Adnan Abu Faisal and his army are encamped near the frontline in northern Syria, waiting to launch an offensive on his home city of Manbij. But they are not the ones who will decide whether to march on the strategically important city, held for more than two years by Kurdish forces supported by the US. The decision will depend on Turkey, the main backer of Abu Faisal’s group, and on how contacts evolve between Washington and Ankara over the US plans to withdraw forces from Syria, a move set to reshape a major theater of the war. The US and Turkey are allies both in the NATO defense alliance and in the fight against Daesh, but Ankara sees the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) forces that helped the US-led coalition drive Daesh out of Manbij in 2016 as a security threat. The YPG fear the US withdrawal will open the way for a threatened Turkish attack into northern Syria, including Manbij, but US President Donald Trump has warned Turkey of “economic devastation” if it goes ahead with the attack. Abu Faisal’s fighters are awaiting orders near Jarablus, a town held by Turkey and its Syrian opposition allies about 35 km south of Manbij. The frontline in the area runs through open farmland where wheat and corn are usually grown. “We are ready with our forces … for ‘zero hour’ to begin any military action,” Abu Faisal, whose forces have more than 300 vehicles including pickup trucks and armored vehicles provided by Turkey, told Reuters. Published in Daily Times, January 18th 2019.