The deadly three-week battle between Kurdish forces and ISIS militants for control of the Syria border town of Kobani has “ground to a standstill” at least for now, U.S. defense officials told NBC News Friday. Resistance by Kurdish fighters, combined with stepped-up U.S. airstrikes, appears to have halted the advance of extremist militant forces, the officials said. However, the town – which lies only six miles from the Turkish border – is still in danger of falling to ISIS.
U.S.-led air strikes pounded nine ISIS targets in Syria, seven of them around Kobani and two others further south on Thursday and Friday, U.S. Central Command said in a statement. Television pictures from the town showed large explosions at about 5 p.m. local time (10 a.m. ET). There was one U.S. air strike in Iraq, northwest of Baghdad, the statement said, adding that aircraft from United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia participated in the latest raids.
Whatever the outcome, US officials are confident the fight for Kobani will not escalate into a cross-border battle between ISIS and Turkey. There is no sign the Turkish government is willing to launch any cross-border attacks or send ground forces into Syria and ISIS is "too smart to cross that threshold" said open an entire new "northern front," officials said.
ISIS now controls 40 percent of Kobani, Deputy U.S. National Security Adviser Tony Blinken said Friday. "I don't know what's going to happen because again in the absence of any ground force there, it is going to be difficult just through air power to prevent [ISIS] from potentially taking over the town," he told reporters at a briefing in London, according to Reuters.
- Jim Miklaszewski and Alastair Jamieson