The United States takes opportunity in the battle against Islamic State for the city of Kobani, senior US administration officials said on Sunday night, as US cargo planes dropped a resupply of weapons, ammunition and medical supplies for Kurdish militants pushing the extremist group back from the area. In the first such airdrop of its kind since the beginning of its operation against Islamic State in Syrian territory, US C-130 aircraft dropped the aid without any fighter escort, or any resistance from the group.
The Pentagon has determined the group has no anti-aircraft capability. Weapons were included in the delivery in order to “help them sustain the fight,” one official said. Kobani has served as refuge for minorities across Syria throughout the three-year civil war there, and has now been defending itself against Islamic State for over a month.
US-led coalition forces, including the air forces of five Arab states, have conducted 135 strikes against Islamic State targets around Kobani alone. But Islamic State’s decision to “surge its resources toward Kobani” has presented an opportunity to the coalition to degrade its gains elsewhere throughout eastern Syria and northern Iraq, the officials said. One senior aide said Islamic State would continue to incur “significant losses for its focus on Kobani.” Thousands of troops have swarmed the city in an effort to take the territory, bordering Turkey.
“The best way that we’re supporting them is with air strikes,” the official continued. US officials fear a “massacre” of remaining civilians in the city, and the Kurdish forces defending them, if the city falls. The White House continues to negotiate with Ankara to contribute to the battle, the officials said.
Earlier on Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country would not arm the Kurdish fighters, calling them “equal” to the Kurdistan Workers Party that both Turkey and the U.S. consider a terrorist group. Erdogan said “it would be very, very wrong to expect” the Turkish government “to openly say ‘yes’ to our NATO ally America giving this kind of support. To expect something like this from us is impossible.”
He made the comment days after the United States said it held its first direct talks with the Syrian Kurdish political party the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, which is tied to the Kurdish fighters in Kobani.