The Islamic State (ISIS) is on the verge of achieving a symbolic victory, having advanced to within miles of the Turkish border and poised to take the town of Kobani despite repeat bombardment by coalition air power.
The situation is causing tension with Turkey, which refuses to send troops to prevent the massacre of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters unless certain conditions are met by the Obama administration, The New York Times
Specifically, Turkey is adamant that it will not act unless the United States takes more action in arming Syrian rebels to overthrow the regime of Bashar al-Assad. The country, which has taken in many of the tens of thousands of civilians fleeing Kobani, also wants an official no-fly zone established to prevent the advance of the Syrian Air Force.
"This isn't how a NATO ally acts while hell is unfolding a stone's throw from their border," an administration official told The Times.
A split with Turkey threatens to undermine the stability of the U.S.-led coalition of Muslim countries, which have also signaled they have an ongoing priority of using the current offensive to overthrow Assad.
The rift with Turkey is also raising concerns that the broader U.S. strategy to fight ISIS is in peril.
In particular, questions are being raised about the feasibility of the president's plan to "degrade and destroy" ISIS without "boots on the ground," and there are also doubts that the administration's plan to steer clear of the Syrian civil war will be feasible.
"We have anticipated that it will be easier to protect population centers and to support offensives on the ground in Iraq, where we have partners" in the Kurdish peshmerga fighters and the Iraqi army, a senior administration official told The Times. "Clearly, in Syria, it will take more time to develop the type of partners on the ground with whom we can coordinate."
The Washington Post also cast doubts on the president's strategy in light of the difficulties with getting buy-in from Turkey and President Barack Obama's insistence on attacking only from the air with local ground support.
"Contradictions such as these are allowing the Islamic State not only to survive but also to expand," The Post said in an editorial
. "For now, the U.S. operation in Iraq and Syria is defined mainly by its limitations. The restrictions Mr. Obama has imposed on his commanders are not compatible with the objectives he has asked them to achieve."
The Wall Street Journal
also said the impending fall of Kobani illuminates weaknesses in Obama's strategy.
"The Turks and friendly Arab are looking for American leadership in Kobani and beyond. The Syrian city needs weapons and fuel supplies, a more intense bombing campaign, and maybe U.S. Special Forces to end the ISIS siege. This early crisis in the Obama campaign exposes flaws in his strategy that will continue to undermine the military effort and the anti-ISIS regional alliance," the editorial board said.
"No successful war plan is static, and Mr. Obama needs to adjust his now if he wants to stop a massacre in Kobani and the continuing march of ISIS."
The White House, meanwhile, insisted that its newly appointed special envoy for Syria, retired Gen. John Allen, could help coordinate closer military participation with Turkey, but acknowledged that differing priorities regarding the Syrian regime might continue to be an issue, The Times reported.
In the past two days, the coalition has instituted five air raids against ISIS in the Kobani area, bringing the total to 18 since the beginning of the campaign. The focus has been on targeting armored vehicles and infrastructure that the militant group is reliant on for its offensive.
Some say the airstrikes won't be enough to save Kobani.
"Instead of decisive action, the ISIL advance was met with only a handful of airstrikes. This morning's escalated efforts may be too late," California Rep. Ed Royce, head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement, according to The Times.
The United Nations envoy to Syria also raised the alarm that the world must take more "concrete action" if it is to prevent Kobani from being overrun by ISIS.
"The world, all of us, will regret deeply if ISIS is able to take over a city which has defended itself with courage but is close to not being able to do so. We need to act now," the envoy said, according to The Times.
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