Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Allied Kurdish and Arab forces are continuing to advance against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants in and around the besieged border city of Kobani, Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) leader Saleh Muslim said on Thursday.
In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Muslim hailed the entrance of Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters, backed by Iraqi Peshmerga forces, into the conflict, adding that the Kurdish forces are making “slow but steady” progress against the Islamist militants who are planting mines and IED’s to cover their retreat from certain areas.
International media reported that around 150 Peshmerga fighters had reinforced YPG units in the border city last week, bringing with them much needed weapons and ammunition. This represented the first time that Turkey had allowed ground troops from outside Syria to provide military assistance to Syrian Kurds.
The PYD leader said that Kurdish Peshmerga forces have had an “effective” role in the battle, adding that the sophisticated arms that they are using have allowed them to target tanks and armored vehicles from long range, changing the military reality on the ground in Kobani.
He added that more Kurdish Peshmerga forces could enter the battle in the coming days and weeks. “We are not talking about specific numbers; it depends on what is required. The military leadership is discussing this issue freely on the basis that there are [now] no political restriction,” Muslim told Asharq Al-Awsat.
However the Kurdish political leader issued an implicit criticism of Free Syrian Army (FSA) involvement in the battle for Kobani, saying that “FSA units that entered [Kobani] recently quickly took the decision to retreat based on the difficult circumstances of the battle and their inability to endure.”
However, Muslim denied that there were any problems between the FSA and YPG units, adding that the issue was based on disagreements among the various FSA units themselves over battle plans and coordination.
The PYD leader also praised the “effective” nature of air strikes by international forces on ISIS position, specifically praising the involvement of Arab air forces involved in the anti-ISIS alliance, saying this “confirms the Arab-Kurdish brotherhood.”
His comments came on the same day that Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim Al-Jaafari said Baghdad would not accept any foreign military personnel on Iraqi soil, but would accept training from abroad for Iraqi forces.
Speaking at a press conference in Ankara on Wednesday, Jaafari welcomed Turkey’s offer to train and equip members of the Iraqi military and police force in the fight against ISIS.