U.S. airstrikes back local forces in Iraq but not Syria — Kobane feels ‘deserted and furious’

Bloomberg reports: The U.S military is monitoring the threat to Kobani, and has conducted airstrikes “in and around” the town in the past several days, Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby told reporters in Washington yesterday. U.S. Central Command said today the coalition had carried out 14 strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq yesterday and today. Vehicles, artillery positions and a building were destroyed near Kobani, said in an e-mailed statement.

Kirby said the U.S. operation in Syria targets areas Islamic State can use as a “sanctuary and a safe haven,” compared with strikes in Iraq that are being conducted to back local forces. That doesn’t mean “we are going to turn a blind eye to what’s going on at Kobani or anywhere else,” Kirby said.

While Turkey’s government has vowed to prevent an Islamic State takeover of Kobani, Kurds aren’t convinced, accusing authorities in Ankara of using the crisis to smother a largely autonomous Kurdish region that has evolved during Syria’s three-year civil war.

The Kurds fighting Islamic State in Syria are linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, whose separatist ambition has long been considered Turkey’s top security threat.

“The people of Kobani feel deserted and furious,” Faysal Sariyildiz, another pro-Kurdish legislator, said yesterday.

The Washington Post adds: The real reason [for the limited number of airstrikes on ISIS near Kobane] appears to be that the main focus of the U.S.-led air war remains on Iraq, with any strikes conducted in Syria intended primarily to degrade the Islamic State’s capacity to operate there, according to Andrew Tabler of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“This is about stabilizing Iraq, not about minorities,” he said. “It appears Syria is secondary and strikes are not being carried out with a discernible political or humanitarian strategy.”

U.S. officials asked to explain the inaction in Kobane cast the answer in similar, if less explicit, terms.

Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, noted to reporters Friday that airstrikes had been conducted in the vicinity of the town, adding that if they could be conducted “in such a way that we’re not going to cause any greater damage or civilian casualties, then . . . we’re going to do it,” he said.

But, he added, “we’re broadly focused, not just on one city and one town. We have to stay broadly focused on the whole region.”

“The focus in Syria has really been about the safe haven they enjoy,” he said of Islamic State fighters. “In Iraq, it’s really been much more focused on supporting Iraqi security forces and Kurdish forces on the ground.”

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1 thought on “U.S. airstrikes back local forces in Iraq but not Syria — Kobane feels ‘deserted and furious’

  1. William deB. Mills

    If Washington is looking for “good guys” to defend, then the beleaguered Kurds are about the most obvious group. If Washington is looking for a strategy in a region in which it has caused so much harm only to create chaos that is now blowing back in our faces, then treating Iraqi Kurds like good guys while allowing ISIS to massacre Syrian Kurds hardly constitutes a rational approach to stabilizing the region. If Washington cares about the consolidation of Turkish democracy, then watching the Turkish NATO army as it watches ISIS conquer Syrian Kurds is a course of action we…and all freedom-loving Turks will come to regret: democracy and freedom must be shared. As for Erdogan and Davutoglu, Kobani is starting to look like their moment of truth. How they go down in history will be decided on this battle. A barbaric ISIS takeover of Kobani under the guns of silent Turkish tanks will burn Turkey’s “good neighbor policy” to the ground, give ISIS enormous momentum, ensure Turkish-Kurdish hatred and violence for a generation, probably doom Turkish democracy, and very likely end up leading to a Turkish withdrawal from NATO and transformation into a radical and unstable Sunni theocracy. Kobani is a turning point. Ankara and Washington need to think long-term.

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