US military says air-drops weapons for Kurdish fighters near Kobane
The U.S. military said it had air-dropped arms to Syrian rebels fighting Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants near Kobane on Oct. 19, in what appeared to be the Pentagon's first public acknowledgment it has delivered lethal aid to the rebels Hurriyet Daily News reported.
The U.S. Central Command said it had delivered weapons, ammunition and medical supplies to the Syrian rebels, who for weeks have sought to stave off an onslaught by ISIL fighters that have overrun swathes of Syria and Iraq this year.
The United States gave Turkey advance notice of its plans to deliver arms to the Syrian Kurds, a group Turkey views with deep distrust because of its links to Turkish Kurds who have fought a decades-long insurgency in which 40,000 people were killed.
"President Obama spoke to [President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan yesterday and was able to notify him of our intent to do this and the importance that we put on it," one senior U.S. official told reporters.
"We understand the longstanding Turkish concern with the range of groups, including Kurdish groups, that they have been engaged in conflict with," he added. "However, our very strong belief is that both the United States and Turkey face a common enemy in ISIL and that we need to act on an urgent basis."
The United States began carrying out air strikes against ISIL targets in Iraq in August and about a month later started bombing the militant group in neighboring Syria, in part to prevent it from enjoying safe haven on Syrian territory.
In a brief statement, the U.S. Central Command said U.S. Air Force C-130 aircraft "delivered weapons, ammunition and medical supplies that were provided by Kurdish authorities in Iraq and intended to enable continued resistance against ISIL's attempts to overtake Kobane."
The Central Command said 135 U.S. air strikes near Kobane in recent days, combined with continued resistance against ISIL on the ground, had slowed the group's advances into the town and killed hundreds of its fighters.
"However, the security situation in Kobane remains fragile as ISIL continues to threaten the city and Kurdish forces continue to resist," the statement said.
The Central Command mentioned no new air strikes around Kobani, whose strategic location has blocked the radical Sunni Muslim militants from consolidating their gains across northern Syria.
A spokesman for Kurdish forces fighting ISIL militants in Kobane later confirmed on his Twitter feed that a "large quantity of ammunition and weapons" had reached the town.
U.S. officials, speaking in a conference call, described the weapons delivered as "small arms" but gave no details.
Three U.S. C-130 transport aircraft dropped 27 bundles of weapons and medical supplies to the Syrian Kurds, said a second U.S. official, adding the planes left Syrian air space unharmed and that the majority of the bundles had reached their targets.