WASHINGTON — While the Syrian border town of Kobani has become the front line in the fight against ISIS, U.S. officials on Wednesday warned not to fixate on the city and appeared to hint that its fall could be a foregone conclusion. The increasingly bloody battles between Kurdish fighters trying to fend off ISIS militants gunning for control of Kobani have captivated the world and taken on enormous symbolic — if not strategic — importance.
The Pentagon spokesman Wednesday said the U.S. recognizes Kobani could fall to ISIS and that air power alone will not save the town. Rear Admiral John Kirby added that while it is easy to get "fixated" on one town, it is also important to step back and consider the longer term objectives in the mission to destroy ISIS. His remarks echoed comments from Secretary of State John Kerry, who noted he was “deeply concerned” about the citiziens of Kobani but that “as horrific as it is to watch in real time what's happening in Kobani, its also important to remember you have to step back and understand the strategic objective.” Kerry added that “notwithstanding Kobani,” the original targets of U.S.-led coalition airstrikes have been ISIS infrastructure.
Analysts note that the battle for city on the border with Turkey has become synonymous with the greater fight. “In terms of the emotional battle, it’s become very much a key battleground now,” said Matthew Henman, manager of IHS Janes Terrorism and Insurgency Center. “It’s definitely more of symbolic value than strategic value for both sides, but you can’t tell by the efforts that both sides are putting in.”
— Courtney Kube, Jim Miklaszewski and Cassandra Vinograd