Turkey ‘gets involved’ in IS campaign, allows US planes to use its air base – Kobani Kurds fight on holding off newly arrived IS fighters
Relations between Washington and Ankara perked today as President Erdogan gave the green light for the US air force to use bases in Turkey – a move which could see an intensity to the bombing of IS positions, but one which is unlikely to save Kobani from falling into extremists’ hands.
Turkey has decided to allow the United States to use its air bases to fight against the Islamic state organization (EI), an American official confirmed yesterday, while Washington pushing Ankara in recent days to be more ‘involved’ in the fight against the Islamist group in Syria.
The United States Air Force has long used the large base at Incirlik in southern Turkey, but so far the American planes used for strikes against IS have taken off from air bases in Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE.
American F-16s are also stationed since last year in Jordan, and the Pentagon has agreements with Oman for the use of military bases.
The American military can also use a base on Diego Garcia, a British territory in the Indian Ocean, for B-52 bombers, B-1 and B-2.
The move to Turkish bases has been approved but there are little details as to when it can start or the numbers.
“The details of the use (of Turkish bases for the fight against IS) are still being developed,” said an American defense official, speaking to AFP under cover of anonymity.
Washington recently expressed his frustration at the reluctance of Turkey, an ally of the United States within NATO to intervene militarily in Syria.
On the ground, IS jihadists Sunday sent reinforcements to Kobani where Kurdish forces opposed fierce resistance in the town with both sides edging backwards and forwards confusing western pundits trying to evaluate who is gaining.
The IS fired 11 rockets into center Kobani which borders Turkey, said one NGO. Moreover, the situation remains in favor of jihadists, more numerous and better armed. They control about 40% of the city, especially the eastern and neighborhoods in the south and west.
The fierce defense of Kurdish forces nevertheless forced IS to bring in reinforcements from Raqqa and Aleppo, northern Syria strongholds, according to OSDH.
“They even send men who do not have a lot of combat experience,” he told AFP Rami Abdel Rahman, head of a UK based observer group. “This is indeed a crucial battle for them. If they fail to take Kobané, it will carry a heavy blow to their image. (…) They put all their weight in this battle” .
But Kurds in Kobani cannot hope to swell their own ranks themselves and receive reinforcements because Turkey blocks its border. This move has spurned pro-Kurdish riots in Turkey, which left at least 34 dead.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, however, confirmed on Sunday that his country would strengthen the military capabilities of the Syrian moderate opposition.
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reiterated his “deep concern about the situation in and around” Kobané and called on “all parties to rise to prevent a massacre of civilians.”
Feyza Abdi, local elected deputy of Kobani now a refugee in Turkey is still in touch with fighters, called on the international community to send “weapons and ammunition,” including “anti-tank missiles, because they are shielded that make us the most evil. “
Secretary of State John Kerry, visiting Cairo, described the situation as “tragic” but said the approach of the coalition over Kobani “does not define (its) strategy” against the global EI .
Kobani will likely be at the center Tuesday in a meeting in Washington of the military leaders of 21 countries in the coalition, which will take stock of their anti-ISstrategy nearly three months after the start of the air campaign in Iraq and nearly three weeks after the start of raids on Syria.
Jihadists control large territories in both countries, in which they have established a “caliphate.”