Reuters reports: It’s not a particularly strategic location, the United States and its allies never pledged to defend it, and few people outside the region had even heard of it before this month.
But the symbolism of U.S.-led airstrikes failing to stop Islamic State militants from overrunning the Syrian city of Kobani could provide an early setback to U.S. President Barack Obama’s three-week old Syria air campaign – far beyond its battlefield importance.
If Islamic State seizes full control of the city – which U.S. officials acknowledge is possible in coming days – it would be able to boast that it has withstood American air power. A U.S.-led coalition has launched 50 strikes against militant positions around the city, most of those in the last four days.
Islamic State also would be able to free up thousands of fighters to pursue territorial gains elsewhere in Syria and Iraq, analysts said.
Inevitable questions would arise over Obama’s pledge to keep U.S. ground troops out of the fight and the strength of his international coalition. Turkey, whose border abuts Kobani, has declined to join military action against Islamic State.
“Judging the overall coalition from a single town in northern Syria … is slightly unfair,” said Shashank Joshi of London’s Royal United Services Institute. “But I think it will dent overall confidence in the coalition and it will concern many people as to whether the U.S. can really stop this movement.”
A Kobani victory would also provide valuable propaganda for the Islamic State, which has proved adept at providing packaged video footage of its fighters in action, while the United States can only produce fuzzy pictures of air-launched bombs and missile blowing up often unidentifiable objects on the ground. [Continue reading…]