Islamic State forces have besieged the Kurdish border town of Kobani for nearly a month, but have yet to crack the stout defenses put up by the lightly armed Kurdish militia.
The Kurds have bent but not broke. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that ISIS controls about 40% of the town, including the militia’s headquarters. But a combination of US air strikes and intelligent defense by the Kurds have stymied the IS army, calling into question its “invincibility.”
Indeed, the propaganda importance of the town has now outstripped its strategic value. Islamic State has invested so much time and effort in trying to capture Kobani, that nothing short of total victory will allow it to maintain its reputation among jihadists. To that end, they are pouring reinforcements into the fight, hoping for a quick end to the campaign.
The Islamic State group poured in reinforcements Sunday for its nearly month-long siege of Kobane as the Syrian town’s Kurdish defenders kept up their high-profile resistance.
IS has sustained serious losses in the battle for the town despite their superior armour, with at least 36 of its fighters killed on Saturday alone, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
With the world’s press massed just across the nearby border with Turkey, the fight for the town has become one the jihadists cannot afford to lose, the Britain-based monitoring group said.
“It’s a decisive battle for them,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
“If they don’t pull it off, it will damage their image among jihadists around the world.”
Abdel Rahman said that IS was sending additional fighters from other areas it controls in Syria, including its Euphrates Valley stronghold of Raqa, after its Friday capture of the Kurdish command headquarters in Kobane failed to deliver a decisive blow.
“They are sending fighters without much combat experience,” said Abdel Rahman, whose group has a wide network of sources inside Syria.
“They are attacking on multiple fronts but they keep being repulsed, then countering and being pushed back again.”
The Kurds doing the pushing are led by a woman fighter.
A Kurdish woman fighter is leading the battle against Islamic State jihadists in the Syrian battleground town of Kobane, a monitoring group and activists said Sunday.
“Mayssa Abdo, known by the nom-de-guerre of Narin Afrin, is commanding the YPG in Kobane along with Mahmud Barkhodan,” Syrian Observatory for Human Rights head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
The secular and left-leaning Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) group has been defending Kobane, on the border with Turkey, since Islamic State (IS) fighters launched an assault on September 16.
The group, the de facto army of the Kurdish regions of north and northeast Syria, is the armed wing of the powerful Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD).
As is the custom for Kurdish fighters, Mayssa, 40, uses a pseudonym, with hers coming from the Afrin region where she was born that is located like Kobane in Aleppo province.
“Those who know her say she is cultivated, intelligent and phlegmatic,” said Mustefa Ebdi, a Kurdish activist from Kobane.
“She cares for the mental state of the fighters and takes interest in their problems,” he said.
She must be doing something right given the heroic defense her people are conducting.
In Iraq, things aren’t going very well. The US air dropped tons of supplies to Iraqi army units protecting an oil refinery south of Mosul. IS forces have cut them off by taking the surrounding towns and villages, so at the request of the Iraqi government, the we air dropped food, water, and ammunition.
And the psychological war by ISIS continues as well. Car bombs targeting Kurds in the north killed 26 and the Anbar police chief was assassinated. IS is softening up the civilian population of Baghdad as they are within 8 miles of the Baghdad airport.
That IS continues to advance in Syria and Iraq shows that US policy is fraying. The fall of Kobani could unravel it entirely, exposing the futility of the administration’s plans.