Less than two weeks ago, the newly announced American-led airstrikes against ISIS already appeared destined to fail. An Islamic State siege of the Syrian town of Kobani was about to give way to a massacre of Syrian Kurds, providing early and salient proof of the airstrikes' fruitlessness. Then, something strange happened: The massacre never came.
The month-long battle for Kobani is by no means over and the death toll is by no means small, but for those administration officials beseeching the American public for both faith and patience, the past few days have provided some breathing room. As Reuters notes, coalition airstrikes surged on Wednesday and Thursday to the tune of 14 raids, which are said to have halted the Islamic State advance. Meanwhile, Kurdish forces have turned back some ISIS gains in the town.
On Friday, Army General Lloyd Austin, who heads the Central Command, told the press that "the campaign is on the right track" and reiterated the need for "strategic patience." He also admitted that it still remains "highly possible that Kobani may fall" to the Islamic State militants.
As Helene Cooper noted, the efficacy and new intensity of the strikes may have been helped by "a little-known new system where Syrian Kurdish fighters fed target information to allied war planners." As we noted on Thursday, the State Department announced that the United States held its first direct talks with a Syrian Kurdish party in Paris last week. While the State Department played the meeting down, perhaps we now have a better idea of what they were discussing.