American and allied forces are waging a last-ditch campaign of airstrikes aimed at preventing ISIS from taking over a key town on Syria’s border with Turkey.
The airstrikes came Tuesday, as Kurdish fighters battled ISIS in the streets of the town and ISIS came the closest it’s ever been to moving into Turkey, a key U.S. ally but one with which Washington has significant disagreements that are making cooperation difficult.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. ISIS Has Kobani Surrounded as Kurds Desperately Try to Defend the Town
ISIS now controls areas to the south, east and west of Kobani, which is the last Syrian town before the country’s northern border with Turkey.
The New York Times notes that some of the Kurdish fighters trying to defend the town have their backs literally against the wall that builds part of the Syrian border as they desperately try to stave off ISIS’ advance.
The populated area in this map shows Kobani, which is also known as Ain al-Arab or Ayn al-Arab.
2. Airstrikes Are Helping, but They Could Be Too Little, Too Late
American-led airstrikes were a welcome sign from the Kurdish fighters trying to stave off ISIS. But the airstrikes came as Turkey’s president warned that ISIS was already on the verge of taking Kobani.
From the Washington Post:
The comments by Recep Tayyip Erdogan — during a visit near the Syrian frontier — came as Islamic State forces appeared to tighten their grip around the besieged Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane despite intensified attacks from U.S. warplanes.
“Kobane is about to fall,” Erdogan told Syrian refugees in the Turkish town of Gaziantep just days after Turkish leaders vowed to keep Kobane out of Islamic State hands.
3. If ISIS Takes Kobani, a Move Into Turkey Could Be Next
A takeover of Kobani would be particularly significant because of its status as a border town with access to Turkey, a NATO member and key U.S. ally.
The Turkish government recently authorized assistance with U.S.-led airstrikes and has sent soldiers in tanks to the border to try to stave off ISIS and evacuate residents as the fighting intensifies.
4. The Turkish Military Is Evacuating People From the Border
Adding to the chaotic atmosphere on both sides of the border was the Turkish military’s efforts to evacuate residents endangered by the fighting.
Photos from the area show Turkish tanks patrolling the border amid reports of Turkish soldiers using tear gas on residents who retaliated by throwing stones at the soldiers.
5. The Governments of the U.S. & Turkey Have Some Serious Disagreements
Efforts by the United States and Turkey to hold off ISIS have been greatly complicated by disagreements between the two countries over how best to confront ISIS and over the strategies deployed in arming the Syrian rebels fighting against ISIS.
From the Times:
Saying that aerial attacks alone may not be enough to stop the fighters’ advance, Mr. Erdogan called for more support for insurgents opposed to the group in Syria. In doing so, he was reiterating the key sticking point between Turkey and Washington: President Obama wants Turkey to take stronger action against the Islamic State, while Mr. Erdogan wants the American effort to focus more on ousting Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad. Turkey has long supported the armed opposition to Mr. Assad.