Oct 20,2014: The U.S. military has airdropped weapons, ammunition and medical supplies to Kurdish fighters in the Syrian city of Kobani to beef up the defense against ISIS forces, the Pentagon said.
“The aircraft delivered (items) that were provided by Kurdish authorities in Iraq and intended to enable continued resistance against ISIL’s attempts to overtake Kobani,” the U.S. Central Command said Sunday.
(The administration refers to the group as ISIL, the acronym for “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.” CNN refers to it as ISIS; the group recently started calling itself the Islamic State.)
The move was partly humanitarian but also aimed at shoring up the Kurdish defenders of Kobani, senior Obama administration officials said — acknowledging it was a shift in the administration’s tactics to date.
“This is a part of the President’s larger strategy to degrade and destroy ISIL wherever they are,” one official said.
The gear was delivered by three C-130 cargo planes and appeared to have been received on the ground by Kurdish fighters, senior Obama administration officials.
There have been reports that ISIS may have anti-aircraft missiles, but the officials said they had no evidence to back those reports and that the cargo planes flew in unescorted.
Consulted with Turkey
President Barack Obama notified Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of the drop in a phone conversation Saturday night, administration officials said.
“We have made clear to the Turkish government for some days now the urgency of facilitating resupply to those forces,” one official said.
Hours later, Erdogan was quoted in the Turkish press saying it would be inappropriate for the U.S. to arm Kurdish militants in Kobani whom he considers “terrorists.”
Kobani, a Kurdish town on the Syrian-Turkish border, now is the scene of an unrelenting battle.
On Sunday, the brief moments of calm were punctuated by sounds of firing from both sides.
ISIS has shelled the city at least 16 times, sources say, while coalition planes fly low overhead.
The U.S. has generally downplayed the importance of Kobani as a key city in the battle against the militants.
However, if ISIS takes Kobani, that would mean it would control land between the northern Syrian city of Raqqa and Turkey — about 100 kilometers (60 miles).
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria took control of Raqqa last year. ISIS uses the once-liberal city as a kind of headquarters where it applies its hardline interpretation of Islamic law, terrorizing the population.
With the help of airstrikes from an international coalition led by the United States, Kurdish and Iraqi forces are now focused on pushing ISIS back from its relentless attempt to take Kobani.
Official: Strategy working
The strategy against ISIS is working, said U.S. Central Command Gen. Lloyd Austin on Friday.
U.S. warplanes struck only twice Friday and Saturday in the city, Central Command said, both times targeting ISIS fighting positions. That’s far fewer strikes than days before. U.S. jets flew at least 14 missions near Kobani on Thursday and Friday, the military reported.
It will take “strategic patience” to beat ISIS, Austin said.
A heavy hit?
ISIS has apparently taken a heavy hit over the past several days. The bodies of at least 70 fighters for the terror group have been dropped off over four days at a hospital in the Syrian town of Tal Abyad, a Syrian opposition group told CNN. Tal Abyad is on the Turkish border and about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Raqqa.
It’s unclear who dropped the bodies of the ISIS fighters off at the hospital, but it was likely other fighters from the militant group, because they control Tal Abyad.