Kobani: Tug Of War
The town of Kobani, which sits on Syria’s border with Turkey, has become the focus of a deadly triumvirate: the Islamic State, America, and Turkey. The primarily Kurdish border town is the personification of the quasi-war being waged against IS, the black flag of the Islamic State flying over air strike rubble. The United States is raining down air strikes on IS as they chastise NATO ally Turkey for their lack of ground involvement, all while the American-endorsed Kurdish fighters battle IS with little ammunition and dwindling numbers of troops. Refugees are trapped between their desperate need to leave the warzone and their inability to vacate their homes due, in some cases, to Turkish border patrol.
Just as Berlin was a vivid example of the difference between the East and West sides of the Iron Curtain throughout the Cold War, Kobani is a case study on the pain the Islamic State is inflicting upon the Middle East and continued damage that they are soon to cause. While it’s easy to see the recent air strikes that “helped dislodge” IS from several Kobani neighborhoods as a victory for the American-led coalition against IS, it can also be seen as simply another ebb in the flow of the back and forth fighting that has been occurring in Kobani since IS’s initial siege approximately a month ago. In fact, US military officials are hesitant to even call it a victory: "Air strikes along are not going to ... fix this, not going to save the town of Kobani," Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby says.
Despite the Islamic State’s retreat from certain neighborhoods in Kobani, the facts on the ground haven’t changed: the Pentagon has deemed help from Turkey a necessary component in winning the battle against IS. Turkey claims to be doing its part by taking in the refugees from Kobani, a city it insists is devoid of civilians even though local government officials state there are “more than a thousand civilians” trapped inside the city by IS snipers and ground troops. As Rear General John Kirby issued a statement saying that Kobani “may very well still fall,” Turkish forces remained on their side of the border, literally watching Kobani be bombed from their tanks. In addition, not only is Turkey refusing to send aid, but it is also blocking the only path for aid to the Kurdish northeastern region of Iraq, through which Kobani is located.
The proximity of Kobani to Turkey makes it the most representative example of the harm Turkey’s lack of support is inflicting upon the campaign against the Islamic State. Turkey, as a NATO ally and a bordering state of Syria, should be doing more to aid the coalition in its quest to “dismantle [the IS] network of death.” The fight is quite literally pushing against Turkey’s border, and in the case of Kobani, there isn’t time for the politicized apathy towards IS being practiced now.
- Alaina Haworth