Dec. 28 (UPI) -- Syrian government troops amassed near the outskirts of Manbij Friday to defend Kurdish fighters there against the a possible attack by Turkey, officials said.
The Syrian armed forces command said the military is "assuming its responsibilities to impose sovereignty to each inch of the Syrian territories." That included deploying forces to Manbij, where they hoisted the Syrian flag Friday.
"It reiterates insistence on smashing terrorism and expelling the invaders and occupiers out of the Syrian soil," the Syrian Army said.
The move came days after U.S. President Donald Trump decided to pull the 2,000 remaining U.S. troops from Syria. The U.S. presence has acted as a buffer between Syrian and Turkish forces, and the withdrawal will leave Syrian and Kurdish forces to fill the void.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said this month he would wipe out Kurdish fighters east of the Euphrates, who have been integral to the U.S. mission to fight the Islamic State. In his most recent statement, Erdogan said he would delay the attack.
Turkish officials will go to Moscow Saturday to discuss what's next for Syria after the U.S. withdrawal. Russia controls much of Syrian airspace. Turkey also said it can take over the battle against the Islamic State fighters after U.S. troops are gone.
A factor in Trump's decision to leave is, he said, IS fighters have largely been defeated there -- a view not shared by everyone.
"Although they have lost nearly all the territory they held, they hold some territory and there is still some real risk," British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told BBC Radio 4.
The Kremlin said Friday it supports the Syrian Army reinforcing Kurdish fighters in Manbij. Spokesman Dmitry Piskov said this weekend's meeting with Turkish leaders will address "coordinating steps for reaching an understanding."