With more than a thousand terrorists killed and territory slipping away, the Islamic State group is losing its grip on the Syrian border town of Kobani under intense U.S.-led airstrikes and astonishingly stiff resistance by Kurdish fighters.
It is a stunning reversal for the Islamic State group, which just months ago stood poised to conquer the entire town — and could pierce a carefully crafted image of military strength that helped attract foreign fighters and spread horror across the Middle East.
“An IS defeat in Kobani would quite visibly undermine the perception of unstoppable momentum and inevitable victory that IS managed to project, particularly after it captured Mosul,” said Faysal Itani, a fellow at the Atlantic Council.
The town, whose capture would give the jihadi group control of a border crossing with Turkey and open direct lines between its positions along the border, became a centerpiece of the U.S.-led air campaign in Syria. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry declared it would be “morally very difficult” not to help Kobani.
The U.S.-led air assault began Sept. 23, with Kobani the target of about a half-dozen airstrikes on average each day, and often more. Analysts credit the air campaign and the arrival of heavily armed Kurdish peshmerga fighters for bringing key areas of Kobani under Kurdish control.