Islamic State advances near Kobane

The Islamic State continues its advance towards the Kurdish of city Kobane in northern Syria. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that the Islamic State has gained control of “325 villages and towns” in the vicinity of Ayn al Arab (the Arabic name for Kobane). As the group moves closer to Kobane, more Kurdish citizens are fleeing for the Turkish border. Around 150,000 Kurdish refugees are reported to have fled to Turkey since this assault began two weeks ago. Refugees spoken to by NBC talk of food being scarce, electricity being cut, and little outside support for Syrian Kurds.

US and coalition aircraft have launched airstrikes against Islamic State forces near Kobane in recent days. Yesterday, three airstrikes were conducted near the Turkish-Syrian border, according to US Central Command. The Turkish Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is also sending reinforcements to Kobane from both Turkey and Iraq.

Since 2012, Kobane has been controlled by the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Kurdish force affiliated with the PKK, which remains a US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization. The YPG considers Kobane to be part of Rojava, or Syrian Kurdistan.

Previous reporting by The Long War Journal noted that this assault began two weeks ago when the Islamic State initiated a new attack on the city after failing to take it back in July. According to some Kurdish activists on Twitter, the offensive has been three-pronged, with Islamic State forces attacking Kobane from the east, south, and west of the city.

The Islamic State currently controls the Jarabulus border crossing to the west and the Tal Abayd crossing to the east. Control of the crossings allows the Islamic State to control the flow of weapons, recruits, cash, and other supplies coming in from Turkey, and it also restricts the Kurdish rebels’ access to northern Aleppo and Raqqah provinces in Syria. Taking Kobane would enable the terrorist organization to further consolidate its control in both Aleppo and northern Syria. Since mid-August, the Islamic State has also been pressing the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, as well as Ahrar al Sham, the Islamic Front, and other rival jihadist groups in northern Aleppo. [See LWJ report, Islamic State advances against jihadist foes in Aleppo.]

Photographs published on Twitter document some of the fighting near Kobane. Recently the Islamic State has been forced to publicize its propaganda via its supporters on social media, as Twitter has taken an active role in suspending official accounts associated with the terrorist organization’s wiliyats, or administrative districts. It is important to note that the following photos were originally released by Wiliyat Raqqah elsewhere on the internet, but Kobane is in Aleppo province in Syria — and also under the jurisdiction of the Islamic State wiliyat for Aleppo. Due to the proximity of Kobane to the borders of Raqqah, it is likely fighters stationed in that administrative district are also taking part in the offensive.

The title image of the set of pictures, which reads “Progress of the Islamic State army towards the city of Ayn al Arab”:


A mortar being used to shell a position close to the city:


Heavy weaponry is also being used:


An Islamic State tank fires on YPG positions:


An Islamic State sniper overlooking YPG positions:


It appears that the Islamic State has been clearing houses as it gets closer:


Gear the Islamic State seized from YPG fighters:


Caleb Weiss is an editor of FDD's Long War Journal and a senior analyst at the Bridgeway Foundation, where he focuses on the spread of the Islamic State in Central Africa.

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  • blert says:

    The ISIS grand tactic seems clear: squeeze the ‘toothpaste out of the tube.’
    The intent is not to destroy the Kurds — but to ethnically cleanse them from Syria.
    That would make both al Baghdadi and Erdogan very, very, happy.
    And Assad wouldn’t be shedding any tears, either.
    Unless the President seriously intervenes with drone attacks on ISIS heavy weapons, the Kurds must give way.
    There are enough displaced Sunnis to permanently occupy all Kurdish turf — and in short order.
    Once this occurs, expect al Baghdadi to roll up Kurdish populations further east into ‘ex-Iraq.’
    Since the Kurds are overwhelmingly Sunni, this element of the larger campaign is strictly along ethnic lines. No-one appears to be making an Islamic case for it.
    Kurds also populate Syrian turf further west – yet adjacent to the Turkish border. One must expect al Baghdadi to go hammer and tong on them… and in short order.
    It would suit Erdogan if there were no Kurds in Syria at all. Then, he’d ‘have’ them in his grasp.
    A similar ‘flushing’ of Christians would also seem to be on the calendar.
    Eventually, Assad would be driven back towards the Med.
    The end game may well feature Assad restricted to the coastal hills – with ISIS holding the interior.

  • Evan says:

    If that’s how they “clear,” houses, with their weapons slung. The Kurds should be able to kill quite few of them.
    Looks like their basically using that artillery piece in the back of the truck as a direct fire weapon, like a tank with no armor.
    The tank has 1 guy outside, probably to keep someone from popping out of a bush and stuffing a grenade down the barrel of the main gun.
    The Kurds need to take a page out of AQs play book and start to fight asymmetrically, they know the ground, and they aren’t burdened by heavy weapons or tanks, with the right combinations of surprise, rapidity of movement and intensity, they may be able to keep IS off balance long enough for air strikes to do some damage.

  • donowen says:

    It’s absurd in this terrain to not terminate all heavy weapons by airstrikes. One can only assume this President is actively working to allow this to not happen. With ten active carriers and planes flying out of Jordan and Iraq, ten aircraft over the battle field 24/7 with four or five drones and you run out of targets in 5 days.

  • Tom says:
    Check the other videos on this account. Plenty of good intel.


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