The Slatest

After Months of Fighting in Syria, U.S.-Backed Kurdish Forces Drive ISIS Out of Kobani

An explosion rocks Kobani during a reported ISIS suicide car bomb attack in Oct. 2013.

Photo by Gokhan Sahin/Getty Images

Kurdish forces registered an important victory in the fight against ISIS on Monday, successfully expelling the group from the contested city of Kobani on the Syrian border with Turkey. The Wall Street Journal reports Kurdish fighters were “hoisting their flags atop strategic hilltops,” signifying a final turn in the Kurds four-month long battle, backed by American-led airstrikes against the Islamist group.

The victory, like the battle for Kobani itself, may be more important symbolically than militarily. “[Kobani] became the most visible arena in the American-led coalition’s fight against the Islamic State, which has seized large areas of Syria and Iraq, and the militant group’s retreat dented the aura of invincibility it has sought to cultivate,” the New York Times notes.  “But even as the Kurds celebrated, some activists said clearing the town was no great victory, given that it took more than 700 airstrikes to do it — nearly three-quarters of all the coalition’s strikes in Syria so far — and that Kobani was a relatively minor border city with a prewar population of 45,000.”

“Unlike in many other parts of the country, in Kobani the U.S. could count on—and work closely with—a viable local militia, the so-called People’s Defense Units, or YPG, a Kurdish secularist group,” the Journal reports.