The Obama administration said Tuesday that its strategy in battling the Islamic State (ISIS) with airstrikes was "succeeding" even though the terrorist group has made major inroads into Kobani, while Kurdish rebels stepped up their pleas for stronger weapons to help defend the Syrian border town.
"We're in the early days of the execution of that strategy," White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at a news briefing. "But certainly the early evidence indicates that this strategy is succeeding."
The U.S.-led coalition launched 21 airstrikes in and around Kobani on Tuesday. One strike targeted the Tel Shair hill that overlooks parts of the city, according to Idriss Nassan, deputy head of Kobani's foreign relations committee.
Nassan said Kurdish fighters later captured the hill and brought down the black flag of the Islamic State. The terrorists still control more than a third of Kobani.
Despite these gains, however, Earnest acknowledged to reporters that the airstrikes might not be enough to prevent a militant takeover, given the lack of an effective fighting force on the ground.
"We certainly do not want the town to fall," Earnest told reporters. "At the same time, our capacity to prevent that town from falling is limited by the fact that airstrikes can only do so much."
But Earnest was immediately challenged by CBS White House correspondent Major Garrett, The Washington Free Beacon reports.
"Kobani, if it falls, will be the third city on the Syrian-Turkish border to do so," Garrett said. "Anbar is now 80 percent controlled by ISIS; they are 15 miles away from Baghdad.
"That doesn't read to many analysts like success," Garrett added. "Why does it look like success to this administration?"
Earnest responded: "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.
"I don't think anybody has sought to leave you or anybody else with the impression that these kinds of airstrikes were going to dramatically reverse the situation on the battlefield overnight," he said. "They won't. We've been pretty candid about the fact that this is a longer-term proposition," Earnest said.
Syrian Kurds have been begging the international community for heavy weapons to help bolster their defense of Kobani.
They've also called for Turkey to open the border to allow members of the Kurdish militia in northwestern Syria — known as the People's Protection Units, or YPG — to travel through Turkish territory to reinforce the city.
So far, neither request has been fulfilled.
For its part, Turkey launched its own airstrikes against Kurdish rebels inside its borders — defying the United States' position that Ankara instead focus on stopping the Islamic State.
The attacks marked Turkey's first major airstrikes against Kurdish rebels on its own soil since peace talks began two years ago — and the Kurds accused the Turkish government of standing idly while Syrian Kurds are being killed in Kobani.
The U.S. has been pressuring Turkey to take a more active role in the campaign against the Islamic State.
President Barack Obama and top military officers from more than 20 nations gathered Tuesday at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, where U.S. officials said the coalition countries were to discuss their strategy.
The president's meeting with military officials, the White House said, was to ensure that coalition military efforts are "integrated and effectuated in pursuit of this operation."
Officials from Ankara were participating in the meeting and Obama was expected to speak to reporters later Tuesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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