The U.S. military confirmed Sunday an airdropped delivery of small arms, ammunition and medical supplies to Kurdish forces in the Syrian town of Kobani on the border with Turkey. The 27 bundles of supplies were provided by Kurdish authorities in Iraq.
In a statement, U.S. Central Command said the airdrops, executed by three C-130 cargo planes, were intended to help Kurdish fighters defend the city against the group calling itself the Islamic State.
“This assistance is another example of U.S. resolve to deny ISIL key terrain and safe haven as well as our commitment to assist those forces who oppose ISIL,” CENTCOM said in the statement, using a widely-used acronym for the Islamic State.
Polat Can, a spokesman for Kurdish forces in Kobani, acknowledged the delivery on his Twitter feed and added that he would soon be posting some “good news.”
In the past two weeks, U.S. forces have conducted 135 airstrikes against ISIL in and around the city of Kobani. The CENTCOM statement says the strikes have killed hundreds of fighters for the Islamic State and badly degraded the group’s military resources.
In a conference call with reporters following the announcement, senior administration officials said more resupply missions were possible.
“We’re trying to stay one step ahead of an opportunistic enemy,” said one official.
The Turkish government has stated its opposition to U.S. arms deliveries to Kurdish forces. Turkish officials link the Kurdish rebels in Syria to the PKK, a Kurdish group in Turkey that has been recognized as a terrorist group by the U.S. and NATO.
In a phone call on Saturday, President Barack Obama notified Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of the U.S. military’s plans to airdrop the arms and supplies into Kobani. Administration officials would not characterize Erdogan’s reaction but acknowledged Turkey’s range of concerns.
One official said there was “an urgent need to resupply” and that airdrops should be viewed as a humanitarian mission, citing concerns that Islamic State militants would massacre the Kurdish population in Kobani if the group is able to take over the town. A land route for more supplies was discussed but another official said during the call that such a plan would require Turkey’s cooperation.
CENTCOM’s statement Sunday reiterated that the situation in Kobani is still “fragile.” Last week, CENTCOM Commander Gen. Lloyd J. Austin stated that despite stepped-up strategies and efforts by allied forces, “Kobani could still fall.”