By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, Oct. 16, 2014 – A concentration of fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant around the town of Kobani along Syria’s border with Turkey has led to more airstrikes against the terrorist group, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said today.
“With these airstrikes, we took advantage of the opportunity to hit ISIL as they attempt to mass their forces and combat power on the Kurdish-held positions. … What makes Kobani significant is the fact that ISIL wants it, and the more they want it, the more forces and resources they apply to it, the more targets are available for us to hit there,” Kirby said at a State Department news conference.
No strategic shift in Syria
The increase in airstrikes doesn’t represent a strategic shift, at least from the military perspective, toward Kobani or any other town, the admiral said. Air power alone will not be sufficient to save any town, he added, and Kobani still could fall.
“Our military participation is from the air, and the air only, right now,” Kirby said. “We’ve all been honest about the fact that air power alone is not going to be able to save any town in particular. I think we’ve been pretty consistent about the fact that we need to all be prepared for other towns and other cities to fall too.”
Goal is to deny sanctuary
While the security situation there does remain tenuous, Kirby said, ISIL’s advances appear to have slowed, “and we know that we have inflicted damage upon them.” ISIL wants ground, territory and infrastructure, he added, so the group should be expected to continue to try to make those gains.
It is important to note that coalition efforts in Syria are intended to deny safe haven and sanctuary for ISIL fighters, the admiral said.
“We’re trying to help not let that happen, so Kobani matters from that perspective. “It also matters tactically, because … they’re putting more resources to the fight, so there are more targets.”
The admiral said several hundred ISIL fighters have been killed just in strikes in and around Kobani. “It would be irresponsible for us not to try to target them in a more aggressive way as they become more aggressive around Kobani itself,” Kirby said.
The Pentagon spokesman said a narrative making the rounds describes ISIL as opportunistic, adaptive and agile. “Nobody is more opportunistic or agile or adaptive than the United States military,” he said. “And so, we’re going to continue to go after them, whatever they are and wherever we can.”
A joint U.S. European Command and U.S. Central Command team has wrapped up meetings in Turkey concerning ISIL, Kirby said. “The discussions went very, very well, and they center around looking for other ways and other contributions that Turkey can commit to this,” he told reporters.
Turkey is an ally, he said, adding that there’s no question it’s going to be a partner in this effort. “But just as we’ve done with every other country -- there’s more than 60 -- is they have to determine what those contributions are going to be. They have to announce them. They have to decide, and we’re going to respect that.”