Kobane: The beginning of the end for ISIL

Kurds have set their eyes on the Kobane countryside after regaining control of the city proper.

Kurdish forces have reclaimed the city of Kobane from ISIL and were working to push the group out of surrounding villages [EPA]

Erbil, Iraq –   Kurdish forces have reclaimed the city of Kobane from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), according to Kurdish sources.

A campaign was launched to push ISIL out of the nearly 350 villages surrounding the iconic northern Syrian town, local officials say.

Losing Kobane after more than four months of intense fighting is a significant propaganda blow to ISIL. The group invested extensive military resources to capture the isolated town on the border with Turkey.

“Daesh [ISIL] took most of the places it wanted in Syria and Iraq but could not capture Kobane,” said Anwar Muslim, the prime minister of the self-ruled administration of Kobane, referring to the organisation by its Arabic name.

“This victory marks the beginning of the end for Daesh.”

Kurdish forces have so far taken control of at least three villages in the southern surroundings of Kobane. It will be a highly challenging task for them to expel ISIL from the dozens of villages that dot the plains around the agricultural town.

RELATED: Kurds call for help to fight ISIL in Syria

Coalition airstrikes on ISIL targets in Kobane’s villages continued on Monday night, according to local sources, but the city of Kobane itself was quiet on Tuesday. Muslim said the local fighters in Kobane were capable of holding their ground and ISIL forces had been “seriously weakened”.

ISIL’s defeat in Kobane further shatters the organisation’s claims to invincibility, particularly as it coincides with the group’s retreat from Kurdish and other Iraqi forces in northern and central Iraq.

ISIL has not officially reacted to the Kurdish statements about its defeat in Kobane city proper. But many ISIL members took to social media to post messages of denial and support for fellow fighters in Kobane.

Kurds on verge of ‘taking full control’ of Kobane

One account that appeared to belong to an ISIL member or sympathiser  posted a snapshot of tweets from international news outlets regarding Kurds’ victory in Kobane and urged fellow ISIL members not to trust such reports.

Kurdish officials in Kobane say they still have to “cleanse” the remnants of ISIL’s presence in the city.

“There are many mines and bombs planted around,” said Idriss Naasan, the deputy foreign minister of Kobane’s administration.

“There are also many corpses of Daesh fighters that need to be removed.”

The final push against ISIL inside Kobane city occurred on Monday as Kurdish forces regained control of Kaniye Kurdan and Miktel neighbourhoods on the eastern edges of the city.

The operation was aided by as many as 17 air strikes carried out by the US-led coalition on Sunday and Monday, according to an announcement from the US military.

Following the victory in Kobane, images spread on social media of jubilant local forces dancing to the tune of Kurdish songs. Kurdish civilians in Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Iran and as far as Europe took to the streets to celebrate the “liberation” of Kobane – a city that has become a powerful symbol of resistance and nationalist aspirations for Kurds.

This sends a message to the coalition and the world that Daesh can be eliminated if there is a determined fighting force on the ground such as the Kurds in Kobane … with the major impact that airstrikes can have.

by Mahmoud Bali, local journalist from Kobane

Kobane has been under varying degrees of siege since the summer of 2013 by different groups, including some brigades of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), and later ISIL.

ISIL launched a major offensive on Kobane in September in an attempt to control much of the lengthy border between Syria and Turkey.  In a matter of days, the group swept through Kobane’s countryside, and at one point had taken over most of the city itself, except for a couple of square kilometres still under the Kurds’ control.

But a series of images shot just a few hundred metres away – by journalists positioned on the Turkish side of the border with Kobane – of the battle inside the city prompted an international response.

On September 23, US aircraft bombed ISIL positions in Kobane. A month later, Turkey allowed Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces equipped with heavy weapons to cross its territory to assist the anti-ISIL forces in Kobane.

Beside the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Peshmerga, a number of FSA groups, such as the Northern Sun and Euphrates Volcano, also fought against ISIL in Kobane.  The success in Kobane appeared to be against all odds as even US military officials predicted the city would fall despite their own heavy air campaign. According to some estimates, as much as 70 percent of coalition airstrikes occurred in the Kobane area.

RELATED: Thousands of Syrian Kurds flee ISIL

The effectiveness of the US-led coalition’s intervention in the war against ISIL has been repeatedly questioned, but the hard-earned triumph in Kobane presents its own lessons, analysts say.

“This sends a message to the coalition and the world that Daesh can be eliminated if there is a determined fighting force on the ground such as the Kurds in Kobane … with the major impact that airstrikes can have,” Mahmoud Bali, a local journalist from Kobane who stayed inside the besieged town during the battle, told Al Jazeera.

A campaign has been launched by Kurds on social media websites calling for the city of Kobane to be turned into an open-air museum and a new city be built in its vicinity.

Muslim, head of the Kobane administration, is all for it:  “I support this suggestion. But this is a decision that has to be made by a board that will be set up for Kobane’s reconstruction.”

Muslim said the city is in urgent need of medical supplies and donations by the international community to rebuild the city, which is 80 percent destroyed.

And as the battle for the full control of the greater Kobane area is raging, Muslim said his fighters need more military assistance.

Source: Al Jazeera