Brave Kurdish Rebels Just Won a Four-Month Battle Against the Islamic State

Brave Kurdish Rebels Just Won a Four-Month Battle Against the Islamic State
Source: AP
Source: AP

The Associated Press reports, "Jubilant Kurdish fighters ousted Islamic State militants from the key Syrian border town of Kobani on Monday after a four-month battle — a significant victory for both the Kurds and the U.S.-led coalition."

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told Reuters that the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) had retaken the town, close to the Turkish border, but were "proceeding carefully in the eastern outskirts where Islamic State had planted mines before fleeing."

"The Kurds raised their flag on a hill that once flew the Islamic State group's black banner," the Associated Press reports. "On Kobani's war-ravaged streets, gunmen fired in the air in celebration, male and female fighters embraced, and troops danced in their baggy uniforms."

More than just a strategic victory: As Mic's Coleen Jose reported in October, Kobani is a gateway into Turkey. The fall of Kobani to Islamic State, analysts say, could have signaled a major strategic and symbolic victory for the militants, who would have gained a 560-mile corridor along an increasingly porous border and a direct link to its strongholds in Aleppo and Raqqa. 

The U.S. certainly stepped up to deprive the Islamic State of the foothold: Kobani was the target of about a half-dozen daily coalition airstrikes on average, and more than 80% of all coalition airstrikes in Syria have been in or around the town, the Associated Press reports. In October, the U.S. dropped bundles of weapons and medical supplies for Kurdish fighters — a first in the Syrian conflict. 

Despite air support from allies, and Kobani's proximity to the Turkish border, Turkey has declined to provide military support to the Kurds, mainly due to the fact that the Turkish military has been engaged in skirmishes with Kurdish rebels across the country for almost 30 years. Turkey wants to prevent Kurdish independence at all costs, critics say; without Turkey's backing, Kobani looked likely to fall to Islamic State. 


The victory is really about affirming the resilience of the Kurds, who have battled the Islamic State across northern Iraq and Syria for months. Throughout the siege of Kobani, Kurdish fighters held out against the more experienced jihadists a month into the militants' offensive on the frontier town, hanging on to their territory against all expectations.

"Their morale collapsed," Kobani-based journalist Farshad Shami told the AP of the Islamic State. "It is a historic victory, when a small town like Kobani defeats a formidable criminal force like Daesh."


Editor's Note: Feb. 12, 2015

An earlier version of this article cited and linked to the Associated Press, but did not include quotations around the phrase "jubilant Kurdish fighters ousted Islamic State militants from the key Syrian border town of Kobani on Monday after a four-month battle — a significant victory for both the Kurds and the U.S.-led coalition." The story has been updated to fully attribute the Associated Press' language.