US sends lethal aid to Kurdish forces fighting ISIS in Kobani
The Pentagon has publicly acknowledged an air-drop of lethal aid to Kurdish rebels fighting the hardline Islamic State in the pivotal Syrian-Turkish border town of Kobani, shortly after news of considerable gains made against the terrorists there.
The Sunday delivery, which also contained other supplies, comes on the heels of renewed US airstrikes on Syria and Iraq’s oil infrastructure in a bid to cripple the terrorist group’s hold on it. Eleven of the strikes were on the Kobani area overnight.
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A brief statement by US Central Command said US Air Force C-130 aircraft “delivered weapons, ammunition and medical supplies that were provided by Kurdish authorities in Iraq and intended to enable continued resistance against ISIL’s [Islamic State, formerly ISIS/ISIL] attempts to overtake Kobani.”
A total of 27 drops with supplies were delivered, another official stated. The aircraft left the Syrian air space following the operation.
On the Kurdish side, a spokesman acknowledged delivery of large quantities of ammunition, weapons and medical aid on Monday. The announcement followed another brief statement that “good news” would soon be released.
The spokesman may have been referring to recent gains made by Kurdish forces against Islamic State militants, who have allegedly been retreating from Kobani. The latest from the forces on the ground was that a cleanup operation is underway, but parts of this crucial border town remain occupied by sporadic terrorists and suicide bombers.
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"Combined with continued resistance to ISIL on the ground, indications are that these strikes have slowed ISIL advances into the city, killed hundreds of their fighters and destroyed or damaged scores of pieces of ISIL combat equipment and fighting positions," Central Command also said.
US forces have carried out 135 air strikes in recent days. “However, the security situation remains fragile as ISIL continues to threaten the city and Kurdish forces continue to resist,” the statement also said.
The airstrike campaign on Iraqi targets began in August, with Syria following a month later.
The “resupply” of Kurdish forces with weapons and aid is the latest step-up in American military involvement in the crisis, which has seen the Islamic State rampage across northern Iraq and Syria in a bid to establish an Islamic caliphate in the region.
One official, according to AP, said “you might see more” of such missions in the coming days, as the Kurds rid Kobani of terrorists. It is unclear at this point whether the deliveries would alone be enough to fight IS in Kobani. One member with the PYD told Reuters that the shipment was not enough for the task.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has meanwhile vehemently opposed American military aid to Kurdish fighters – which Turkey sees as terrorists. "The PYD is for us, equal to the PKK. It is a terror organization," Erdogan told reporters on a trip to Afghanistan on Saturday.
"It would be wrong for the United States – with whom we are friends and allies in NATO – to talk openly and to expect us to say 'yes' to such a support to a terrorist organization," Erdogan said. The country's airspace was not used for the drops, according to an official with the foreign ministry.
In spite of the remarks, President Obama did give an advance warning to the Turkish leader over the phone to give a heads-up on the arms supplies prior to the start. Erdogan’s reaction to this was not immediately available.
Turkey and the US are still involved in discussions over how best to approach the fight with IS. But Turkey has been reluctant to get involved on its own border militarily, despite facing direct threats from the militants.
One US official underlined that “the longstanding Turkish concern” with Kurdish groups was understandable, but that the US government also believes the two “face a common enemy in ISIL and that we need to act on an urgent basis.”