Defying Turkey, US Airdrops Arms to Kobane Kurds

Defying Turkey, US Airdrops Arms to Kobane KurdsDefying Turkey, US Airdrops Arms to Kobane Kurds

The US military has airdropped weapons, ammunition and medical supplies to Kurdish fighters in the Syrian city of Kobane to beef up the defense against IS forces, the Pentagon said.

“The aircraft delivered (items) that were provided by Kurdish authorities in Iraq and intended to enable continued resistance against ISIL’s (IS’s) attempts to overtake Kobane,” the CNN quoted the US Central Command as saying Sunday.

The move was aimed at shoring up the Kurdish defenders of Kobane, senior Obama administration officials said -- acknowledging it was a shift in the administration’s tactics to date.

“This is a part of the President’s larger strategy to degrade and destroy ISIL (IS) wherever they are,” one official said.

The gear was delivered by three C-130 cargo planes and appeared to have been received on the ground by Kurdish fighters, senior Obama administration officials.

There have been reports that IS may have anti-aircraft missiles, but the officials said they had no evidence to back those reports and that the cargo planes flew in unescorted.

 Turkey Reaction

President Barack Obama notified Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of the drop in a phone conversation Saturday night, administration officials said.

“We have made clear to the Turkish government for some days now the urgency of facilitating resupply to those forces,” one official said.

Hours later, Erdogan was quoted in the Turkish press saying it would be inappropriate for the US to arm Kurdish militants in Kobane whom he considers “terrorists.”

Earlier he was quoted by Turkish media as saying: “There has been talk about forming a front against IS by giving the PYD (Syrian Kurdish group fighting against IS in Kobane) arms. But the PYD, for us, is equal to the PKK; it is a terrorist organization,” Erdogan said, criticizing the West for not supporting other groups in Syria who also have been fighting against IS.

Turkey has said it supports the US-led coalition formed against IS but has not joined coalition efforts against the extremist group, insisting on the creation of a “secure zone” and a no-fly zone inside Syria. It also desires a re-definition of the coalition’s mission to include attacks on the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as well.

Kobane, a Kurdish town on the Syrian-Turkish border, now is the scene of an unrelenting battle.

The US has generally downplayed the importance of Kobane as a key city in the battle against the militants.

However, if IS takes Kobane, that would mean it would control land between the northern Syrian city of Raqqa and Turkey -- about 100 kilometers (60 miles).

The IS took control of Raqqa last year.