Manbij wasn’t necessarily safe so much as it was stable. Or maybe just quiet … for the time being. Kurdish forces backed by the American military successfully drove out the Islamic State in 2016, with a relative calm following. The small northern city of approximately 300,000 would go on to be cited as the model for what Syria could look like post-ISIS, despite being at the crossroads of international tensions between Syria, Turkey, Russia, and the United States.
Although the radical Islamic militants no longer held the city, there was still much work to be done in order to kill or capture the remaining cells that threatened the city (and region). That work was, and is, largely being accomplished by special operators who have spent the better part of two decades hunting humans — and have nearly perfected the craft since the Global War on Terrorism began in 2001.