U.S. officials: Kobane no longer on brink

Kurdish fighters in Kobane appear likely to hold out indefinitely with the help of U.S. warplanes: U.S. officials

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The Northern Syrian city of Kobane is no longer on the brink of falling to the control of Islamist State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the Kurdish fighters there likely will be able to hold out indefinitely, U.S. officials said on Thursday.

The front lines between ISIS and Kurdish forces have not moved for more than a week and “I think the Kurdish defenders ...are going to be able to hold,” a defense official at U.S. Central Command was quoted by AFP on condition of anonymity.

The U.S. military admitted on Wednesday that a cache of weapons dropped over Kobane drifted off course and likely ended up in the hands of ISIS militants instead of Kurdish forces.

The U.S. military and its allies have intensified air strikes to turn back the militant group in both Syrian and Iraq this week, the U.S. military said on Thursday.

A total of 15 strikes were staged against ISIS in Iraq and Syria on Wednesday and Thursday, the Central Command said in a statement carried by Reuters.

The statement said U.S. fighter and bomber aircraft staged four strikes near the key border city of Kobane, destroying an ISIS control center and fighting positions in an area that has often been targeted this month, and two more that knocked out oil tanks east of Dawr Az Zawr.

Four air strikes by U.S. and allied forces in Iraq near the vital Mosul Dam hit small ISIS units and destroyed a vehicle while another attack near Bayji took out a fighting position. Four strikes in the Fallujah area targeted a training facility, a larger Islamic State unit and a building.

A U.S. military official told AFP on Thursday that the Iraqi army is still months away from staging a major offensive to retake territory lost to ISIS.

“It's well within their capability to do that, on the order of months, not years,” said a military official, speaking on condition of anonymity. But he added: “It’s not imminent.”

[With AFP and Reuters]

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