By Roman Orsini
Smoke rises following a strike in Kobani, Syria during fighting between Syrian Kurds and ISIS.
Militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have undertaken an assault on the Syrian town of Kobani earlier this month, which lies along the Turkish border. The introduction of U.S. bombings have obstructed the militants’ progress and caused the Jihadist group heavy casualties, according to Pentagon officials.
Kobani is the latest city ISIS fighters have set in their sights. The militants control roughly a third of Iraq, including its second largest city, Mosul, according to Business Insider. The latest offensive into Syria reflects the expansionist aims of the Islamic State, which has risen to power amidst the chaos created by the Syrian civil war and the breakdown of Iraq between its Sunni, Shia and Kurdish populations.
“The enemy has made a decision to make Kobani his main effort,” said General Lloyd Austin of U.S. Central Command, responsible for Middle East operations.
Large numbers of ISIS fighters have descended upon the town and have “created a rather target-rich environment … for American and coalition air strikes,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.
ISIS continues to besiege the town in spite of ongoing airstrikes. Its advance seems to be stalled, but not reversed. Austin has said that despite airstrikes, “it’s highly possible that Kobani may fall.”
ISIS rose to international infamy this year for its brutal mass murders and conquests in Iraq and Syria. Roughly 5,500 Iraqis have been killed since ISIS started its military campaign, according to The New York Times. The group also filmed the beheadings of several American and European journalists, using the films in its social media campaign to recruit more fighters.
On Friday, Aug. 8, the U.S. began bombing ISIS targets in Iraq and expanded to Syria this month. According to the BBC, roughly 480 strikes have been conducted against ISIS, targeting armored vehicles, weapons stocks and military installations.
U.S. bombings helped local Iraqi and Kurdish forces recapture the strategic Mosul Dam from ISIS, which is the fourth largest dam in the Middle East, and a significant generator of electricity for Iraq’s North. In the western Anbar Province, Apache helicopters were used to attack ISIS formations at low altitudes, as bombers would have posed a greater risk to allied fighters on the ground.