MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE Fla. (Reuters) - The Syrian border town of Kobani appears in less danger of falling to the Islamic State, but the threat still remains, U.S. officials said on Thursday, offering a measured view of a key battle against the militant group.
Officials at the U.S. military’s Central Command warned the Islamic State could ultimately capture the town, even after coalition air strikes and air drops of weapons and medical supplies to help Syrian Kurdish fighters fend off the militants in street battles.
One U.S. defense official, speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity, suggested Kurdish forces appeared likely to hold some ground unless the current battleground dynamic changes. That is despite Islamic State efforts to reinforce their fighters there.
“With the current air strikes that are going on in support of the Kurdish fighters who know the town, the line has kind of stabilized,” the official said.
A U.S. military official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was too soon to say whether the resupply of weapons would make a difference.
The official extolled the Kurdish fighters, saying: “It (Kobani) could fall. But they’re fighting very well right now.”
Asked whether Kobani was in less in danger, he added: “I would say so.”
The battle for Kobani is becoming a focal point in the U.S.-led coalition campaign against the group in Syria and in Iraq, and Central Command announced more air strikes around the town near Turkey’s border on Thursday.
The targets included the militant group’s fighting positions, as well as a command center and a vehicle. The U.S.-led coalition has carried out 286 air strikes in Syria since launching air strikes there a month ago.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday agreement had been reached on sending 200 Kurdish peshmerga fighters from Iraq through Turkey to help defend Kobani. [ID:nL6N0SI2V5]
A senior official in Iraq’s Kurdistan region told Reuters the peshmerga would be equipped with heavier ordinance than is now used by Kurdish fighters in Kobani, who say they need armor-piercing weapons to fend off Islamic State.
Reporting by Phil Stewart. Editing by Andre Grenon