Airstrikes have little impact as ISIS advances on Kobane and Baghdad

McClatchy reports: The Turkish government says 160,000 Kurds have crossed from northern Syria in the past week, and there were at least 10,000 more on Monday, according to Sanliurfa.Com, a local news portal.

On Tuesday, a McClatchy reporter witnessed Kurds arriving at a rate of about 500 an hour. Turkish authorities processed them in an orderly and efficient manner, with children offered rubella vaccinations in a medical tent, and everyone required to register at a mobile immigration office before being transported by a fleet of minibuses to nearby towns.

The regional Kobane government, controlled by a Kurdish group that Turkey, the United States and the European Union have labeled as a terrorist organization, said the U.S.-led coalition staged two airstrikes on Islamic State positions Monday night about six miles west of Kobane, but the Islamic State advance seemed to be undeterred.

Idriss Nassan, the deputy foreign minister of the Kobane canton, reached by phone, told McClatchy that Islamic State fighters were within three miles of the city on the south and east and six miles on the west. Other estimates put the Islamic State as close as two miles outside the town, which is also known in Arabic as Ayn al Arab.

If the U.S. and its Arab allies appeared reluctant to save Kobane from the Islamic State, there was no sign that Turkey would intervene, either. The Turkish military brought more than 30 tanks and armored vehicles to the border Monday and menacingly pointed their turrets into Syria. But one day later, they were parked in a lot close to the border with no sign of crews.

The tragedy of the Kobane region is that its leadership had been able to secure peace and calm for the past two years, a period in which internally displaced Kurds and other groups migrated there by the tens of thousands. When the Islamic State began pressuring last spring, the local Kurdish militia, known by its Kurdish initials as the YPG, seemed to be able to hold them off. But in recent days, the Islamic State has been advancing, and the U.S. coalition, no doubt spurred on by Turkey’s fears that the YPG is allied with its own Kurdish separatist insurgents, hasn’t come to the rescue. When Turkish Kurds tried to send in fighters, the Turkish government stopped them, using tear gas.

On Tuesday there was no sign of more volunteers, and none of the two dozen or so returning Kobane residents said they intended to join the militia, and a sense of hopelessness swept those who’d fled. [Continue reading…]

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that since ISIS began its attack on September 16, it has seized 325 villages in the area surrounding Kobane.

Reuters reports: Islamic State beheaded seven men and three women in a northern Kurdish area of Syria, a human rights monitoring group said on Wednesday, part of what it described as a campaign to frighten residents resisting the militant group’s advance.

The head of the Syrian Observatory for Human, Rights Rami Abdulrahman, said five anti-Islamic State Kurdish fighters, including three women, and four Syrian Arab rebels were detained and beheaded on Tuesday 14 km (8 miles) west of Kobani, a Kurdish town besieged by Islamic State near the Turkish border.

He said a Kurdish male civilian was also beheaded.

“I don’t know why they were arrested or beheaded. Only the Islamic State knows why. They want to scare people,” he said.

NBC News reports: ISIS militants seized weapons and besieged hundreds of Iraqi soldiers after overrunning an army base northwest of the capital, a senior security official told NBC News. The attack on the Albu Aytha military camp, 50 miles outside of Baghdad, comes amid airstrikes by the U.S. and its allies and gains by Kurdish troops on the Iraqi-Syria border. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source said late Tuesday that poor communications from the base meant it was unclear exactly how many soldiers remained trapped inside the base but reports suggested between 240 and 600 people were under siege. The senior security official added that some of the soldiers at Albu Aytha were able to escape before ISIS arrived.

NBC News also reports: Iraqi military pilots mistakenly gave food, water and ammunition to enemy ISIS militants instead of their own soldiers, a senior security official and a brigadier-general told NBC News. The supplies were supposed to help besieged Iraqi army officers and soldiers who had been fighting Islamist extremists for a week in Saglawyah and the village of Al-Sijar in the country’s western province of Anbar.

“Some pilots, instead of dropping these supplies over the area of the Iraqi army, threw it over the area that is controlled by ISIS fighters,” said Hakim Al-Zamili, a lawmaker in the Iraqi parliament who is a member of the security and defense committee and acts as a security liaison for service members and commanders formed by anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. “Those soldiers were in deadly need of these supplies, but because of the wrong plans of the commanders in the Iraqi army and lack of experience of the pilots, we in a way or another helped ISIS fighters to kill our soldiers.”

A brigadier-general in Iraq’s Defense Ministry, who declined to be named, confirmed the incident, which occurred on Sept. 19. “Yes, that’s what had happened,” the officer said, adding that some air force pilots “do not have enough experience … they are all young and new.” Both Al-Zamili and the brigadier-general said there would be an investigation to determine the cause of the blunder.

Middle East Eye: The Pentagon, appealing for patience, warned that there would be no quick and easy end to the fighting.

No one should be lulled into a false sense of security by accurate air strikes,” Pentagon spokesman, Rear Admiral John Kirby, told reporters. “We will not, we cannot bomb them into obscurity.”

A long-term effort will be needed to train and arm Syrian rebel forces and strengthen Iraq’s army, he said.

He said “military action alone will not win this effort”.

Kirby criticised some media coverage as raising unrealistic expectations about the air campaign in Syria and Iraq.

Commanders from the outset had made clear that air power alone would not be enough while a long-term effort would be needed to train and arm Syrian rebel forces and strengthen Iraq’s army, he said.

“Even as we share the sense of urgency about this group, we must also share a sense of strategic patience about this entire effort. And I think some of that has been lacking,” Kirby said.

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