US-led airstrikes have killed “several hundred” jihadist fighters in and around Kobani, but the Islamic State group could still seize the besieged strategic Syrian town, the Pentagon said Wednesday.
“We believe that we have killed several hundred ISIL fighters in and around Kobane,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters, adding that the majority of the town’s population has fled as jihadists continued to pour into the region in an attempt to take the town.
“Kobane could still fall, it could very well still fall,” Kirby added.
“ISIL has made no secret of the fact that they want that town… and so they have continued to flow fighters to Kobani,” he said, using another acronym for the group.
The battle for the northern Syrian town — known as Ayn al-Arab in Arabic — enters its second month on Thursday. Kirby said only “hundreds or so” civilians remain.
“Certainly if Kobani falls to ISIL that’s a setback, there’s no question about that,” Kirby said, but he stressed that the strategy for Operation Inherent Resolve, the new name for the US-led campaign against IS jihadists, is “bigger” than any one town.
“We ought to be prepared for the eventuality that other towns and other villages, other pieces of ground will either fall to ISIL or we may not be able to dislodge them for quite some time. This is going to take a while,” he said.
In neighboring Iraq, where IS controls large chunks of territory, the jihadists are threatening Baghdad, but the Pentagon does not believe they are on the verge of capturing the capital city.
“We do not believe that there is an imminent threat to the security of the city right now,” Kirby said.