The impact of airstrikes on the battle for Kobane

The Telegraph reports: The first signs that things could change came when planes appeared in the sky, circling for hours, but not attacking. The first strikes came on October 7 when US-made vehicles driven by Isil fighters to resupply the city were hit outside the town.

Scorched metal skeletons were all that remained of the jihadist’s prized Humvees.

“We had a walkie-talkie tuned on the Isil radio system, that we had taken from a jihadist that we killed,” said Mr Kharaba.

“When the first air strikes hit, we heard them on the radio screaming in panic.

“They were shouting ’Allah Akbhar’ (God is great) and listing the leaders who were killed: Abu Anas, Abu Hamza and many others.” Within a week, the air strikes had escalated from a few every day, to several every hour and by Tuesday the US and allies launched 21 air strikes on Isil positions in and around Kobane.

They bombed Tel Shair, a hill at the edge of Kobani, from which Isil had boastfully erected its black flag, and which it had used as a position to shell the town from.

Kurdish forces stormed the hill after the air strikes and cleaned it of their enemy.

“After we took the hill, I knew that Isil was on the back foot,” said Mr Kharaba.

“I knew it would be hard for them to keep Kobane.” The next day the strikes were hitting inside Kobane itself and the tide began to turn.

Pilots overhead grew in confidence and began to strike positions in the centre of Kobane, hitting Isil on their front lines.

Mr Kharaba described to the Telegraph being just metres from the air strike’s targets, and knowing he was safe: “They are incredibly accurate. If the Americans wanted to put a rocket in someone’s eye, even from hundreds of meters in the air, they could.”

The Syrian rebels and their Kurdish allies claimed they worked closely with the US planners to help set up the coordinates for the laser guided bombs.

Idris Nassan, 40, a senior spokesman for the Kurdish fighters told the Telegraph: “There is close co-ordination. We have a member of YPG who works directly with the Americans.”

Officially, the US government has shied away from directly admitting coordinating its attacks through the YPG, whose affiliate, the PKK, is on America’s terrorist list.

But John Allen, the US special envoy in charge of building the international coalition against Islamic State, admitted that Washington was open to receiving information on targets from all sources.

“Obviously, information comes in from all different sources associated with providing local information or potentially targeting information.

“And we’ll take it all when it comes in. It’s ultimately evaluated for its value,” Allen told reporters in Washington.

One fighter who asked not to be named recalled a battle on the eastern front of Kobane where his men were about to be forced into a retreat: “We called a Kurdish commander for help. He told us to move back a few meters. Then, minutes after, an air strike hit the men we had been fighting.”

The results have been increasingly effective. [Continue reading…]

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