US steps up air strikes on ISIL in Syria

US-led planes conduct raids on ISIL around besieged Kurdish town of Kobane as well as targets across Syria and Iraq.

US-led coalition warplanes have intensified bombing raids to push back the armed group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) intent on seizing the Kurdish town of Kobane in Syria, the US military said.

US and Jordanian aircraft conducted eight additional strikes on ISIL around Kobane, for a total of 14 coalition strikes for the day and 19 bombing raids near the town since Tuesday, the US Central Command, which is overseeing the air war and American forces in the Middle East, said on Wednesday.

The latest strikes near Kobane destroyed five armed vehicles, an ISIL supply depot, a command center, a logistics compound, and eight occupied barracks, the Central Command said.

Another air raid southwest of the Syrian city of Raqqa destroyed four armed vehicles and  damaged two more, it said.

US fighter jets and other aircraft also kept up bombing runs in Iraq, with one attack northwest of Ramadi, one in Mosul and another raid south of Kirkuk, it said.

“Indications are that Kurdish militia there continue to control most of the city and are holding out against ISIL,” Central Command said in a statement.

Al Jazeera has also learned that some ISIL fighters have pulled out from the town after a push by Kurdish forces, but ISIL’s flag is still seen on a hill overlooking Kobane.

Latest reports said around 200,000 people have already fled Kobane and surrounding villages since the fighting began.

‘Difficult mission’

On Wednesday, US President Barack Obama said that the US will keep making progress against ISIL.

“It remains a difficult mission,” Obama said as he joined Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel and his military commanders at the Pentagon. “As I’ve indicated from the start, this is not something that is going to be solved overnight.”

Two months after the US began launching air strikes in Iraq that later expanded to Syria, ISIL is far from crippled, keeping control of most of the territory it has seized in Iraq and Syria, and threatening to capture Kobane near the Turkish border.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Pentagon acknowledged that Kobane could still fall and said ISIL could seize additional territory elsewhere.

The armed rebels could only be decisively defeated by “capable” local forces including moderate rebel fighters in Syria and Iraqi government troops and Kurdish forces, spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby told reporters.

He said it would take time to train and arm forces that could fight effectively and work with US military advisers and aircraft.

“We don’t have a force inside Syria that we can cooperate with and work with,” Kirby said.

At the White House, officials conceded that air power alone would be insufficient, but they denied US Secretary of State John Kerry’s statement that the US is willing to examine the possibility of creating a “buffer zone” within Syria.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies