As Kurdish forces continue to lose ground to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in a key Syrian border town, Pentagon officials on Wednesday warned that air power alone will not be sufficient to save the town.
Their cautious statements echoed earlier warnings from Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who feared that the U.S.-led coalition and airstrikes won’t halt future advances by the terrorist group.
The border town of Kobani soon could fall to ISIS, despite six airstrikes launched Tuesday night by the U.S.-led coalition outside of the besieged city. The shelling destroyed ISIS gun trucks and artillery pieces, according to reports from NBC News’ Jim Miklaszewski. Three other airstrikes were aimed at ISIS forces and destroyed a tank closer to the border of Iraq.
Earlier this week, the militants took over the eastern part of Kobani, where they have been battling Kurdish forces, which currently hold control of the area. The militants’ power over the town would be a significant gain for ISIS because it would add another large area in their possession along the border of Syria and Turkey. Refugees have swarmed into Turkey after fleeing ISIS, pleading for assistance from the Kurdish forces.
While the United States realizes ISIS could take control of Kobani, it is easy to become “fixated” specifically on one town, Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters on Wednesday. But, he added, it is also important to consider long-term objectives. Asked whether the U.S. public should prepare for other Syrian towns to suffer a similar fate as Kobani, Kirby responded: “I think we all should be steeling ourselves for that eventuality.” He added that the militants will take other towns besides Kobani.
The United States and its allies needs a capable partner on the ground in Syria to fight ISIS, Kirby said.
In Iraq, fighter bombers and drones from the United States, Great Britain, and, for the first time, the Netherlands, on Tuesday pounded five separate ISIS targets around Fallujah and Ramadi, west and north of Baghdad, and northeast of the Sinjar mountains, Miklaszewski said.
Since the U.S.-led coalition began in Syria last month, the most airstrikes have been launched in Kobani. But the shelling has done little to deter ISIS in the region, where ISIS has taken control of other large areas of Syria and northern Iraq.
During a White House briefing on Wednesday afternoon, Press Secretary Josh Earnest reminded reporters of President Barack Obama’s acknowledgment that the strategy is not a short-term proposition.
“Without a doubt, we have made important progress because of the strategy we have put in place,” he told reporters.
Turkish leaders still refuse to commit to military involvement in the fight against the extreme Islamic group. Parliament previously authorized military action against ISIS, but the country hasn’t offered any assets or significant participation to the U.S.-led coalition. The inaction has led to heated demonstrations, and at least 14 people died after clashes between protesters and police this week. Turkey, with its bases from which the United States could stage military strikes, is geographically crucial to the anti-ISIS coalition.
Meanwhile, the White House is praising Canada’s government for joining the anti-ISIS coalition of more than 60 other allies, including countries in Europe and the Middle East. The vote in the Canadian parliament allows airstrikes for up to six months, but leaves out the use of ground troops.
On Wednesday, Obama met with top Pentagon and national security officials about the threat from ISIS. Combat commanders provided him with an update on the U.S.-led coalition to “degrade and destroy” ISIS.
FBI agents are seeking help identifying a member of ISIS who might be from the United States. The individual who appeared in an ISIS propaganda video speaks with what officials describe as a North American accent.
On Tuesday, British police in London arrested four men, who are accused of plotting a terror attack. The detainment searches were part of an ongoing investigation into Islamic-related terrorism. Last weekend, FBI agents arrested a 19-year-old U.S. citizen from Chicago for attempting to travel to Turkey allegedly to join ISIS.