ISIS 'on NATO's Doorstep,' But Admin Makes Clear Saving Kobane Isn't Part of 'Strategic Objectives'
WASHINGTON -- With the Syrian city of Kobane surrounded by ISIS fighters and Turkey wary to jump into the fight on its southern border, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee warned that the limited airstrike campaign launched by the Obama administration has not kept the Islamic State from advancing to "NATO's doorstep."
Protests erupted in cities from Istanbul to London with Kurdish demonstrators imploring their governments to step in to prevent Kobane from falling to the terrorists. At least a dozen were killed in clashes with police in Turkey, as authorities responded to protests with tear gas and water cannons.
Kurdish fighters tried to evacuate remaining civilians from the city; ISIS has been beheading and raping in nearby towns on its advance.
State Department press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters today that Secretary of State John Kerry talked with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu last night and "briefly" this morning.
"Obviously, their conversation is - was broadly about the challenges we're all facing with the threat of ISIL, and also, certainly, the situation in Kobane," Psaki said. "It's horrific for everyone to watch in real time what's happening in Kobane, and they talked about that."
"But beyond that, I'm not going to get into other specifics, certainly about - let me add a little bit more about the role - what the United States has been undertaking, what other Arab countries have been undertaking, and certainly discussion about what role Turkey can play. But we're not going to discuss that publicly much further than that."
Davutoglu told CNN International that Turkey is willing to join the fight against ISIS, perhaps even with ground troops, if a no-fly zone is established along with safe havens to house refugees flooding Turkey -- about 2 million have crossed thus far -- and if taking down Bashar Assad is part of the game plan.
"We want to have a safe haven on our borders. Otherwise, all these burdens will continuously go on the shoulders of Turkey and other neighboring countries," Davutoglu said. "Those who request something from us should understand our needs, as well. This is not one side of the relation. People, for example, people are asking us to receive refugees and they are praising us, OK. But at the same time, they are saying, 'And please control your border.'"
"How can you control a border if, in three days, 180,000 people are coming?"
Speaking to a crowd largely composed of Syrian refugees in Gaziantep province, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, “I am telling the West – dropping bombs from the air will not provide a solution."
“Months have passed but no results have been achieved. Kobane is about to fall,” Erdoğan said, according to Hurriyet.
He added that “Turkey is on guard and well-equipped for any threats directed against itself."
“We are following the attacks on Kobane and other towns where our Kurdish brothers live with great concern,” Erdoğan said.
Psaki said one airstrike last night south of Kobane "destroyed three ISIL-armed vehicles and damaged another."
"Another strike southeast of Kobane destroyed an ISIL-armed vehicle carrying anti-aircraft artillery. Two airstrikes southwest of Kobane damaged an ISIL tank. Another airstrike south of Kobane destroyed an ISIL unit," she added. ISIS supporters tweeted that the strikes had just blown up Kurds' homes.
The opposition groups on the ground, Psaki said, are "working together to push back and hold back, to the degree they can, ISIL and their efforts that have been underway on the ground."
The Kurdish People's Defense Units (YPG) said in an update this afternoon that, on the 22nd day of ISIS' offensive against Kobane, they were able to kill 67 ISIS fighters while taking 12 casualties. "ISIS mercenaries are targeting the center of the city with tanks and heavy weapons," the YPG warned.
Psaki said "it's obviously horrific to watch what's going on on the ground, but it's important for the United States, for us, to also step back and remember our strategic objectives as it relates to our efforts and our engagement in Syria."