Good news comes from Kobani but it is Iraq that worries the coalition against the jihadists


US planes are bombing like never before and the Kurdish guerrillas say they are regaining some of the ground they lost inside Kobani, the Syrian Kurdish city that the Islamic State has been targeting for a month. But Washington recognizes that this is not a strategic fight in the fight against the jihadists – it is the Iraqi front that focuses the concerns, at a time when the radicals' advances threaten to leave Baghdad within the reach of the radicals' shells.

Despite its limited military importance, the small Kurdish town has become a symbol of the fight against extremists, given the proximity of the fighting to the Turkish border, where 200,000 people who until 16 September had fled in the Kobani region had fled. . Preventing it from falling into the hands of the Islamic State would, therefore, give an important boost to the strategy designed by US President Barack Obama and would undermine the aura of invincibility that the radical propaganda machine feeds.

“A few days ago, [the Islamic State] controlled maybe 40% of the city, but now it has less than 20%,” Idriss Nassan, spokesman for the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Syrian Kurdish militia that defends the city. There are no independent sources in the city that can confirm this data, but those on the border guarantee that the aerial bombardment, the only aid received by the Kurdish forces, has reached an unprecedented intensity.

The Pentagon revealed that between Wednesday night and Thursday morning, allied aviation launched 14 attacks on Islamic State positions, destroying 19 buildings that had been taken over by the group. There have already been more than half a hundred bombings carried out since the beginning of the week and which have caused “several hundred deaths” – a pace that is only paralleled by the missions that in August helped the Iraqi Kurdistan forces to reconquer the Mosul dam, the largest from Iraq.

The New York Times reported Wednesday that those responsible for planning the air missions are receiving information from the YPG on the ground, despite the fact that Washington officially considers the Syrian militia an arm of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), Turkey's Kurdish guerrilla. which it classifies as a terrorist organization. "YPG commanders pass information to the coalition about the location of Islamic State targets and they bomb according to instructions," a guerrilla spokesman also told Reuters.

The US Department of Defense does not confirm the collaboration, attributing the intensification of the attacks to the commitment put by the Islamic State in the efforts to conquer the city, where it has sent reinforcements. “The more they want it, the more resources they put into it and the more targets we have to hit,” explained Admiral John Kirby.

A Syrian journalist in the city who spoke by phone with Reuters reinforced the idea that the bombings allowed the guerrillas to regain some initiative. “We went through some YPG positions that were in the hands of the Islamic State just the day before,” said Abdulrahman Gok. In a statement released on Thursday, the Pentagon acknowledged that the attacks "delayed the advance of the jihadists" but insisted that the situation in Kobani "remains uncertain".


closer baghdad

But despite all the attention it has generated, Kobani is just one of the targets in the jihadists' sights, and not even the most important, recognize US officials.

“We are attacking targets in the Kobani region mainly for humanitarian reasons. But I'm very reluctant to use a term like 'strategic target,'” said John Allen, the reform general Obama called to coordinate the international coalition brought together by the US to fight the Islamic State.

Allen, who was speaking to journalists after a tour of the Middle East, stressed that the Iraqi war front "is clearly Washington's main concern" and acknowledged that the jihadists had made "important advances" there. After conquering Hit last week, one of the last towns held by the Iraqi army in Anbar, the great province of western Iraq, they have now taken over a military base that had been abandoned and now surround the town of Amriyat al-Falluja.

Allen said that these advances, despite the air strikes that the US launched two months ago, confirm the idea that “military efforts, while important, are not enough to defeat the Islamists”. On the ground, however, more alarmist voices are heard. “If Anbar falls, it will have a huge impact on us and the entire Baghdad region,” he told the Washington Post .General Ali al-Majidi, commander of the Iraqi Army's 6th Division during a visit to Abu Ghraib. The Sunni-majority city on the outskirts of Baghdad has been hit from time to time by shells fired by Islamic State fighters entrenched in a nearby village and the Iraqi military fears the jihadists will take it as their next target if they conquer all of Anbar, putting infrastructure in place. vital structures, such as the international airport, within reach of the radicals' artillery.

The Pentagon insists that the eventual loss of Anbar to the jihadists, which extends into Baghdad province, does not pose an "imminent threat" to the Iraqi capital. But there are fears in the area that the jihadists will take advantage of the Sunni minority's resentment of the actions of Shiite militias – which the Iraqi government has called to their aid – to swell their ranks. “If ten members of the Islamic State arrive here, they will become thousands because everyone from Abu Ghraib will join them,” a resident who asked not to be identified told the US newspaper.

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