Quilliam Alert: Urgent action required to save Kobane

Since the 16th of September, Islamic State (IS) jihadists have been closing in on the Kurdish town of Kobane (also known as Kobani, or Ain al-Arab), located on the Syrian border with Turkey. Despite being held back by the efforts of the Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG) fighters and limited coalition airstrikes, IS has now taken over the strategically located Mishtanur hill and entered the south eastern corner of the town, having fully encircled it weeks before. Now, the fall of Kobane to IS looks perilously close.

While some 186,000 of its inhabitants have fled across the Turkish border, thousands more remain in the desperate fight against the so-called ‘caliphate’. If IS take full control of the town, all those who have resisted will be summarily executed. It is imperative that the international community comes to the aid of the people of Kobane. Air strikes are simply not enough to alter the military balance at this stage, nor is humanitarian assistance.

We at Quilliam call on the international community to:

– Recognise that limited aerial engagement has not hindered IS advances, and will not do so in the weeks, months and years to come. Likewise, it will not be sufficient to rollback IS positions in an effort to ‘degrade and ultimately destroy’ the group. In the last week alone and in spite of coalition strikes, swathes of Iraq’s Anbar province have fallen to the jihadists, who captured entire armoured units from the Iraqi Security Forces in the process. Sunni Muslim-majority countries in the region must engage more, and consider sending ground troops.

– Realise that the fight against IS at Kobane is no longer a counter-terrorism operation. The IS jihadists are using conventional warfare tactics which must be met with conventional military assistance. As such, the Kurds fighting to protect the town must be armed with heavy weapons.

– Exert the utmost diplomatic pressure on Ankara to look past its short-sighted policy towards the Kurds and seize the anti-IS initiative. For too long, Turkey has been inadequate in its response to what has been happening just over its borders with Syria and Iraq. On Thursday, a change in policy appeared imminent, with its parliamentarians voting in favour of allowing operations against IS; since then, though, nothing more has happened.

Quilliam’s Managing Director, Ghaffar Hussain, says:

“Understand that IS will not go away unless more robust, multilateral action against it is taken. It is vital that we all do much more to prevent Kobane from falling to IS thugs. Regional states must be at the forefront of this effort and the international community must do all it can to support them.”