The U.S. military has airdropped weapons, ammunition and medical supplies to Kurdish fighters in the Syrian city of Kobani to beef up the defense against ISIS forces, the Pentagon said.
"The aircraft delivered (items) that were provided by Kurdish authorities in Iraq and intended to enable continued resistance against ISIL's attempts to overtake Kobani," the U.S. Central Command said Sunday.
(The administration refers to the group as ISIL, the acronym for "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant." CNN refers to it as ISIS; the group recently started calling itself the Islamic State.)
The move was partly humanitarian but also aimed at shoring up the Kurdish defenders of Kobani, senior Obama administration officials said - acknowledging it was a shift in the administration's tactics to date.
"This is a part of the President's larger strategy to degrade and destroy ISIL wherever they are," one official said.
The gear was delivered by three C-130 cargo planes and appeared to have been received on the ground by Kurdish fighters, senior Obama administration officials.
There have been reports that ISIS may have anti-aircraft missiles, but the officials said they had no evidence to back those reports and that the cargo planes flew in unescorted.
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U.S. airstrikes "are not going to save" the key Syrian city of Kobani from being overtaken by ISIS, said Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby.
"I think we all should be steeling ourselves for that eventuality," he told reporters in a daily briefing Wednesday.
"We are doing everything we can to halt" ISIS' progress against the town, but airstrikes alone cannot stop the Islamist militants, Kirby added.
"We've been very honest about the limits of air power here. The ground forces that matter the most are indigenous ground forces, and we don't have a willing, capable, effective partner on the ground inside Syria right now - it's just a fact," he said.
The greater U.S. strategy, Kirby said, is to degrade ISIS' ability to sustain itself.
Several senior U.S. administration officials said Kobani will soon fall to ISIS, which calls itself the Islamic State.
They downplayed the importance of it, saying the city is not a major U.S. concern.
But a look at the city shows why it would mark an important strategic victory for the militants. ISIS would control a complete swath of land between its self-declared capital of Raqqa, Syria, and Turkey - a stretch of more than 100 kilometers (62 miles).
As Time.com put it, "If the ISIS militants take control of Kobani, they will have a huge strategic corridor along the Turkish border, linking with the terrorist group's positions in Aleppo to the west and Raqqa to the east."
Staffan de Mistura, U.N. special envoy for Syria, warned of the horrors ISIS could carry out against the people of Kobani - horrors it has carried out elsewhere. "The international community needs to defend them," he said. "The international community cannot sustain another city falling under ISIS."
The terrorist group claimed it had downed at Iraqi army helicopter in Baiji. Photographs posted to an ISIS website show smoke and fire around an aircraft, which is then seen completely charred on the ground.
A truck bomb driven by ISIS exploded near the center of Kobani. Two civilians and a fighter inside the city described it as huge. The target was a security forces building, they said.
However, Kurdish official Idriss Nassan told CNN, the truck did not reach its intended target and detonated early.
See more on this developing story on CNN.com.
The key Syrian border city of Kobani will soon fall to ISIS, but that's not a major U.S. concern, several senior U.S. administration officials said.
If Kobani falls, ISIS would control a complete swath of land between its self-declared capital of Raqqa, Syria, and Turkey - a stretch of more than 100 kilometers (62 miles).
The U.S. officials said the primary goals are not to save Syrian cities and towns, but to go after ISIS' senior leadership, oil refineries and other infrastructure that would curb the terror group's ability to operate - particularly in Iraq.
Saving Iraq is a more strategic goal for several reasons, the officials said. First, the United States has a relationship with the Iraqi government. By contrast, the Obama administration wants Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down.
Another reason: The United States has partners on the ground in Iraq, including Iraqi forces and Kurdish fighters known as Peshmerga.
But on Tuesday, a top U.N. official implored world leaders to take action as Syrian Kurdish fighters defending Kobani are dangerously outmatched.
"They have been defending themselves with great courage. But they are now very close to not being able to do so," said Staffan de Mistura, the U.N. special envoy for Syria.
"They are fighting with normal weapons, whereas the ISIS has got tanks and mortars," he said. "The international community needs to defend them. The international community cannot sustain another city falling under ISIS."
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