More than two months into its assault on Kobani, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is pouring fighters and resources to try capturing the besieged Syrian Kurdish town.
The border town’s unwavering Kurdish defenders, though, are gaining momentum — a potentially bruising reversal for the extremists who only a few weeks ago seemed unstoppable.
The setback in Kobani is “a statement of (ISIS’s) vulnerability,” said David L. Phillips, an expert on Kurdish issues.
There have been more than 270 airstrikes from a U.S.-led coalition on ISIS targets in and around Kobani. Retired Marine Gen. John Allen, the U.S. envoy for the coalition, pointed out that as ISIS continues to mass around Kobani, it provides more targets.
ISIS “has, in so many ways, impaled itself on Kobani,” he said in an interview Wednesday in Ankara with the Turkish daily Milliyet.
Kobani has been under attack since mid-September, when the Sunni Muslim terrorists seized a series of villages and much of the town. Most of Kobani’s 60,000 residents fled to neighboring Turkey in the first few days of the offensive, amid expectations that it would fall quickly.
A combination of concentrated airstrikes and the arrival in late October of a group of 150 Iraqi peshmerga forces with advanced weapons blunted the edge of the ISIS offensive.
Kobani-based activists said Kurdish fighters have made small but steady advances. Last week, Kurdish fighters known as the YPG seized a hill that overlooks part of the town. On Tuesday, they captured six ISIS-controlled buildings and confiscated a large amount of weapons and ammunition.
“The city (Kobani) … may prove to be the Islamic State’s Waterloo,” Phillips said.