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Kerry: Anti-Islamic State Strategy Is 'Evolving'

  • VOA News

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday the strategy of the anti-Islamic State coalition is "evolving," with decisions about the role of Turkey and other countries coming within "hours or days."

Kurdish militias have repeatedly asked for a larger international intervention since the ultra-radical militants launched an offensive on the Syrian border town of Kobani three weeks ago.

Neighboring Turkey has yet to act.

But Kerry said while the battle for Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, is "horrific ... you have to step back and understand the strategic objective."

"We are trying to deprive ISIL of the overall ability to wage this, not just in Kobani, but throughout Syria and into Iraq," Kerry said, using another term for Islamic State fighters.

Pentagon: Airstrikes not enough

Six coalition airstrikes helped Kurdish fighters push back Islamic State militants in Kobani on Wednesday.

But the Pentagon said Wednesday that airstrikes alone are not enough to prevent the town from falling to the Islamic State militants.

Kerry added: "I think you will see, over the next hours and days, the fullness of that strategy evolving, and decisions being made about the Turks and others as to exactly what role they are going to play."

Kobani region premier Anwar Moslem, however, told VOA's Kurdish news service from Kobani that the past two days of coalition airstrikes brought "positive results."

Moslem said the raids are giving the local militias a fighting chance at defeating the Islamic State group, and helping protect thousands of civilians still in the area.

“If coalition forces continue striking like this, they can prevent help from coming to the IS from neighboring towns. YPG is already on the ground fighting and with the help of U.S. and coalitions jets, we can expel ISIS from Kobani and save the lives of these civilians,” Moslem said.

'Expecting a massacre'

Qubad Talabani, deputy prime minister for the Kurdistan Regional Government, told CNN on Wednesday that Kurdish forces will not back down in Kobani.

For that reason, he said, "we're expecting a massacre" if the Islamic State militants seize the city.

The U.S. envoy tasked with coordinating the anti-Islamic State effort, retired General John Allen, is due to arrive in Turkey on Thursday and Friday for what Kerry said would be "long meetings."

Kerry spoke alongside British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, who said Britain has not ruled out "playing a role in Syria," but that such action would require further parliamentary approval.

Britain has joined the U.S. in airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq, while other coalition countries have conducted air raids in Syria.

Also Wednesday, anti-Islamic State forces in Iraq suffered a setback, when the militant group shot down an Iraqi military helicopter near the country's largest oil refinery for the second time in a week, killing the two pilots aboard.

Iraqi forces have been battling the extremist group for control of the facility in the city of Baiji since early June.

The U.S. military said coalition airstrikes against Islamic State militants around Iraq the past two days destroyed anti-aircraft artillery pieces, checkpoints and buildings.

Death toll, refugee surge

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the battle for Kobani has killed at least 400 people. The fighting has also forced nearly 200,000 residents and villagers from the area to flee and seek shelter across the frontier in Turkey.

At least 18 protesters were killed in Turkey when demonstrators took to the streets of the largely Kurdish southeast and in major cities like Istanbul and Ankara to demand the Turkish government protect Kobani.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday Kobani may soon fall without support from outside ground troops. Turkey's parliament authorized the use of force against the Islamic State group, but the Turkish military has not intervened.

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