Secretary of State John Kerry appeared to switch his position on the Syrian town of Kobani on Monday, declaring it “irresponsible” to not help the Kurds there fighting the Islamic State group (also known as ISIS or ISIL), according to the Associated Press.
“We have undertaken a coalition effort to degrade and destroy ISIL, and ISIL is presenting itself in major numbers in this place called Kobani,” Kerry said during a trip to Indonesia. “It would be irresponsible of us, as well [as] morally very difficult, to turn your back on a community fighting ISIL as hard as it is at this particular moment.”
Earlier in October, Kerry was much more dismissive toward Kobani. He urged the public to take a broader view of the conflict and to not simply focus on the town, which he said was not strategically important.
“Notwithstanding the crisis in Kobani, the original targets of our efforts have been the command and control centres, the infrastructure,” he said then, according to Reuters. “We are trying to deprive the (Islamic State) of the overall ability to wage this, not just in Kobani but throughout Syria and into Iraq.”
The US announced Sunday night that it started airdropping weapons, ammunition, and medical supplies in Kobani. A senior administration official said the Islamic State had prioritised the city, shifting significant numbers of fighters and weapons there. So the US decided to prioritise it as well.
“ISIS decided Kobani was important to them. This provided us with an opportunity,” the official said. Another official later added that ISIS would “suffer significant losses for its focus on Kobani.”
The US has spent the past week pummelling ISIS targets in Kobani. Central Command said the US military had conducted 135 total airstrikes in Kobani to date, killing “hundreds” of fighters while slowing the group’s advances into the city.
At the same time, however, Kerry noted that it was a “momentary effort” and made it “very, very clear” to Turkey “that this is not a shift in policy by the United States.”
Still, the US military warned in a press release that the city remained in danger of falling to the jihadists.
“However, the security situation in Kobani remains fragile as ISIL continues to threaten the city and Kurdish forces continue to resist,” it said. “As the US Central Command commander has noted, Kobani could still fall.”
— Brett LoGiurato contributed reporting.