Kobane: Air strikes ‘stall IS advance’ on Syrian border town
US-led forces have continued air strikes against Islamic State (IS) militants near the besieged Syrian Kurdish border town of Kobane.
A senior local official said IS had been pushed back towards the edge of the town as a result of the strikes and advances by the town’s defenders.
Earlier reports said the militants had controlled almost one-third of Kobane, on the Turkish-Syrian border.
Turkey has ruled out a ground operation on its own against IS in Syria.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu renewed calls for the creation of a no-fly zone along the Syrian side of the border during talks in Ankara with new Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg.
Turkey – a Nato member – also wants co-ordinated action against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, and has called for a buffer zone.
A buffer zone would include preventing Syrian government aircraft from flying near the Turkish border. Turkey fears that Mr Assad’s forces would be the main beneficiaries of an IS retreat.
But the BBC’s defence correspondent Jonathan Marcus says creating such a zone would represent a significant military operation requiring the seizure of defendable terrain.
The US military on Thursday said it had carried out nine more air strikes near Kobane, damaging IS positions and destroying vehicles and buildings.
In a statement, the US said it was monitoring the situation in Kobane closely. “Indications are that Kurdish militia there continue to control most of the city and are holding out” against IS, it said.
The UN’s special envoy in Syria, Steffan de Mistura, said on Wednesday that everything possible had to be done to save Kobane, and the town’s fall would threaten Turkey itself.
Beyond the desire for Syrian President Assad to go, beyond the call for a no-fly zone, there is a far more profound reason for Turkey’s reluctance to act in Kobane – the bad blood with the Kurds runs deep here.
And Yasin Aktay, vice-chairman of the governing AKP party, addressed the issue outright in an interview with me in Ankara.
“There is no tragedy in Kobane as cried out by the terrorist PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party]”, he said. “There is a war between two terrorist groups.”
That is the suspicion of many – that the Turkish government is content enough to see fighting rage in Kobane as Islamic State and the Kurdish militia attack each other.
It’s been likened to a proxy war, Ankara watching as Islamic State does Turkey’s bidding, fighting its old Kurdish enemy.
Turkey fears an autonomous Kurdish region in northern Syria could reignite Kurdish separatism back home. And if the fall of Kobane would mean those territorial ambitions crumble too, so be it.