U.S. ‘deeply concerned’ about Kobane: Obama
President Barack Obama on Tuesday expressed grave concern over the plight of the Syrian town of Kobane under attack by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria militants, and said a U.S.-led coalition would keep up bombing raids there and in western Iraq.
“We’re deeply concerned about the situation in and around the Syrian town of Kobane,” Obama said after meeting commanders from a coalition of more than 20 countries fighting the ISIS group.
The U.S. president, sitting next to his national security adviser Susan Rice and the U.S. military’s top officer, General Martin Dempsey, said the U.S. government was “also focused on the fighting that is taking place in Iraq’s Anbar province.”
The battles in Anbar province and Kobane illustrated the threat posed by the ISIS group in both Iraq and Syria and “coalition air strikes will continue in both these areas,” he said.
Obama said there had been some “important successes” in the campaign against IS militants, citing the successful bid to retake and hold Mosul dam in Iraq.
The coalition chiefs agreed that “this is going to be a long term campaign,” he said.
“There are going to be periods of progress and setbacks,” he said.
But Obama added: “We are united in our goal.”
The coalition would need to communicate an “alternative vision to those attracted” to the ISIS group, he said.
U.S. steps up intelligence sharing with Russia
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday Russia and the United States had agreed to share more intelligence regarding the fight against ISIS.
Kerry said he and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov have agreed to step up intelligence sharing after a meeting in Paris, in which Lavrov said that as many as 500 fighters from Russia may have joined ISIS.
Kerry told journalists he had suggested “we intensify intelligence cooperation with respect to ISIL and we agreed to do so,” using an alternative name for the ISIS jihadists.
The White House said Tuesday that the strategy adopted by the United States to defeat ISIS militants is “succeeding.”
“We’re in the early days of the execution of that strategy. But certainly the early evidence indicates that this strategy is succeeding,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
“There are specific episodes where the use of military force has succeeded in beating back an ISIL advance or stopping the siege of a vulnerable humanitarian target,” he said, using another ISIS acronym.
21 air raids near Kobane
Earlier, U.S. Central Command said U.S.-led aircraft hammered ISIS militants with 21 bombing raids near Kobane on Monday and Tuesday, amid signs the strikes had “slowed” the group’s advance on the Syrian border town.
Earnest called this a “continuation of our broader strategy, not a change in it,” when asked if the stepped-up strikes represented a shift.
Despite the allied firepower, ISIS militants recently captured nearly half of Kobane and seized most of Iraq’s largest province, Anbar, to add to their self-proclaimed Islamic “caliphate”.
Earnest acknowledged that the fight would not be quick or easy.
“We’ve been pretty candid about the fact that this is a longer-term proposition,” he told reporters.
He also again insisted that U.S. ground troops would not be involved in the battle against the ISIS group, which has seized large swathes of territory in both Iraq and Syria.
Earnest instead explained that a core component of the coalition strategy was to “build up the capacity of Iraq security forces and we can build up the capacity of Syrian opposition fighters to take the fight to ISIL.”
“That is a necessary component of the strategy that will allow us to see more significant results on the battlefield,” he said.