The US military subsequently increased the number of air strikes around the besieged town to nearly 40 over the past two days. Photo: AP
Washington - The predominately Kurdish Syrian town of Kobane has become a symbol for Kurdish resistance against Islamic State extremists. With the help of United States airstrikes, Kurdish fighters have held out against the ISIS invaders for weeks.
Last week, when Kobane seemed on the verge of falling, Secretary of State John Kerry said the town, near the Turkish border, did not constitute a “strategic objective” for the US.
That said, the US military subsequently increased the number of air strikes around the besieged town to nearly 40 over the past two days.
Asked why, General John Allen, President Barack Obama’s special envoy for the anti-ISIS coalition, replied, “Obviously we are striking the targets around Kobane for humanitarian purposes.”
But at around almost the same time as Mr. Allen was speaking at the State Department, Pentagon spokesperson Rear Admiral John Kirby was holding his own press conference. He said: “The great majority of the population of that town has evacuated and left. It ranges every day, but it is in the realm of hundreds or so of people left there in Kobane.”
So are the United States intensive air strikes truly to protect a few hundred civilians? John Kirby provides a different reason: “They [ISIS] have continued to flow fighters to Kobane, meaning there are more targets in and around Kobane.”
“So one of the reasons why you are seeing more strikes there is because there is more ISIL there,” he said, using the administration’s preferred acronym for the jihadists. “We believe - and it’s hard to give an exact number - we have killed several hundred ISIL fighters, again in and around Kobane,” Mr. Kirby added.
Even if the increased air strikes do not amount to a rethinking of the US position on the significance of Kobane, the persistence with which ISIS fighters have been attempting to capture it leaves little doubt that it is a strategic objective for them.