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Smoke rises after an U.S.-led air strike in the Syrian town of Kobani U.S.-led air strikes on Wednesday pushed Islamic State fighters back to the edges of the Syrian Kurdish border town of Kobani, which they had appeared set to seize after a three-week assault, local officials said

Smoke rises after an U.S.-led air strike in the Syrian town of Kobani U.S.-led air strikes on Wednesday pushed Islamic State fighters back to the edges of the Syrian Kurdish border town of Kobani, which they had appeared set to seize after a three-week assault, local officials said

REUTERS

Newly arrived Syrian Kurdish refugees walk with their belongings after crossing into Turkey from the Syrian border town of Kobani near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, Turkey

Newly arrived Syrian Kurdish refugees walk with their belongings after crossing into Turkey from the Syrian border town of Kobani near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, Turkey

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Turkish Gendarmerie (law enforcement) search newly arrived Syrian Kurdish refugees at a checkpoint after crossing into into Turkey from the Syrian border town of Kobani near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, Turkey

Turkish Gendarmerie (law enforcement) search newly arrived Syrian Kurdish refugees at a checkpoint after crossing into into Turkey from the Syrian border town of Kobani near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, Turkey

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A jet from the U.S.-led coalition flies in the sky over the Syrian town of Kobani as seen from a hill in Tal-Hajeb village that overlooks Kobani. Reuters

A jet from the U.S.-led coalition flies in the sky over the Syrian town of Kobani as seen from a hill in Tal-Hajeb village that overlooks Kobani. Reuters

REUTERS

An Islamic State fighter sits at a checkpoint used by Kurdish fighters in al-Jurn village in the countryside of the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani, after the Islamic State fighters took control of the area. Reuters

An Islamic State fighter sits at a checkpoint used by Kurdish fighters in al-Jurn village in the countryside of the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani, after the Islamic State fighters took control of the area. Reuters

REUTERS

A damaged school building, which was used by Kurdish fighters as a base, is seen in al-Aziza village in the countryside of the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani, after the Islamic State fighters took control of the area. Reuters

A damaged school building, which was used by Kurdish fighters as a base, is seen in al-Aziza village in the countryside of the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani, after the Islamic State fighters took control of the area. Reuters

REUTERS

An Islamic State fighter gestures from a vehicle in the countryside of the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani, after the Islamic State fighters took control of the area. Reuters

An Islamic State fighter gestures from a vehicle in the countryside of the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani, after the Islamic State fighters took control of the area. Reuters

REUTERS

Smoke rises from the Syrian town of Kobani, Turkish army tanks take position on the Turkish side of the border, as seen from near the Mursitpinar border crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in Sanliurfa province. Reuters

Smoke rises from the Syrian town of Kobani, Turkish army tanks take position on the Turkish side of the border, as seen from near the Mursitpinar border crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in Sanliurfa province. Reuters

REUTERS

Turkish Kurds standing at Mursitpinar on the outskirts of Suruc, at the Turkey-Syria border, watch as a huge plume of smoke rises after a airstrike outside west Kobani, Syria as fighting intensified between Syrian Kurds and the militants of Islamic State group. AP Photo

Turkish Kurds standing at Mursitpinar on the outskirts of Suruc, at the Turkey-Syria border, watch as a huge plume of smoke rises after a airstrike outside west Kobani, Syria as fighting intensified between Syrian Kurds and the militants of Islamic State group. AP Photo

AP

An injured Kurdish protester is carried by his friend as they clash with riot police in Diyarbakir. Reuters

An injured Kurdish protester is carried by his friend as they clash with riot police in Diyarbakir. Reuters

REUTERS

Turkish Kurds watch as airstrikes hit Kobani, inside Syria, as fighting intensifies between Syrian Kurds and the militants of Islamic State group, in Mursitpinar, on the outskirts of Suruc, at the Turkey-Syria border. AP

Turkish Kurds watch as airstrikes hit Kobani, inside Syria, as fighting intensifies between Syrian Kurds and the militants of Islamic State group, in Mursitpinar, on the outskirts of Suruc, at the Turkey-Syria border. AP

AP

A huge plume of smoke rises after an airstrike in eastern Kobani, Syria, behind a hilltop where militants with the Islamic State group had raised their flag on Monday, as fighting intensified between Syrian Kurds and the militants as seen from Mursitpinar on the outskirts of Suruc, at the Turkey-Syria border. AP Photo

A huge plume of smoke rises after an airstrike in eastern Kobani, Syria, behind a hilltop where militants with the Islamic State group had raised their flag on Monday, as fighting intensified between Syrian Kurds and the militants as seen from Mursitpinar on the outskirts of Suruc, at the Turkey-Syria border. AP Photo

AP

Newly arrived Syrian Kurdish refugees walk with their belongings after crossing into Turkey from the Syrian border town of Kobani  near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, Turkey

Newly arrived Syrian Kurdish refugees walk with their belongings after crossing into Turkey from the Syrian border town of Kobani near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, Turkey

Getty Images

Kurdish protesters gather and block Parliament Square during a demonstration against the group calling themselves IS (Islamic State) in London, England

Kurdish protesters gather and block Parliament Square during a demonstration against the group calling themselves IS (Islamic State) in London, England

Getty Images

Kurdish protesters gather and block Parliament Square during a demonstration against the group calling themselves IS (Islamic State) in London, England

Kurdish protesters gather and block Parliament Square during a demonstration against the group calling themselves IS (Islamic State) in London, England

Getty Images

Kurdish protesters gather and block Parliament Square during a demonstration against the group calling themselves IS (Islamic State) in London, England

Kurdish protesters gather and block Parliament Square during a demonstration against the group calling themselves IS (Islamic State) in London, England

Getty Images

US President Barack Obama

US President Barack Obama

REUTERS

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Smoke rises after an U.S.-led air strike in the Syrian town of Kobani U.S.-led air strikes on Wednesday pushed Islamic State fighters back to the edges of the Syrian Kurdish border town of Kobani, which they had appeared set to seize after a three-week assault, local officials said

Coalition air strikes may not be enough to save the Syrian-Turkish border town of Kobane from falling into the hands of Isil extremists, the Pentagon admitted last night, as battles continued to rage for control of the town.

The Pentagon said that it had conducted six air strikes around Kobane yesterday which had been "useful" in pushing back the jihadis some of whom the Pentagon said had withdrawn, without providing specific numbers.

"We're doing everything we can from the air to try to halt the momentum of Isil against that town, but that air power is not going to be enough alone to save that city," said Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary. Ultimately, "capable" ground forces - rebel fighters in Syria and Iraqi government troops - would have to defeat the jihadists.

Facing growing questions over why the coalition was not doing more to save Kobane, both the Pentagon and the State Department said it was taking a "regional" and "strategic" approach to the fate of the town, rather than getting "fixated" on one small place.

"As horrific as it is to watch in real time what is happening in Kobane... you have to step back and understand the strategic objective," said John Kerry, the US secretary of state, at a news conference in Washington.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon press secretary also accepted that the strategically vital town could fall under the control of the extremists.

"Kobane could be taken. We recognise that," Mr Kirby told reporters.

Mr Kirby added that Pentagon officials are not planning to ask US President Barack Obama to commit ground forces to the fight inside Syria.

In the frankest briefing yet on the military outlook, he added: "We all need to prepare ourselves for the reality that other towns and villages - and perhaps Kobane will be taken by Isil."

Mr Kirby also said that the key to eventually defeating the militants is to train and enable indigenous ground forces.

"We don't have a force inside Syria that we can cooperate with and work with," Mr Kirby said.

In London, Philip Hammond, the British Foreign Secretary, said: "Notwithstanding the crisis in Kobane, the original targets of our efforts have been the command and control centres, the infrastructure.

"We are trying to deprive (Isil) of the overall ability to wage this, not just in Kobane but throughout Syria and into Iraq."

The fate of Kobane has highlighted divisions between the US and Turkey over the objectives of the mission, with the US and Britain focused on defeating Isil first, while Turkey has said it will only send in troops if there is a coordinated international effort to oust Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president.

In a further sign of strains between the coalition partners, Francois Hollande, the French president, yesterday backed Turkish calls for an internationally supported "buffer zone" on its border with Syria to give a haven to refugees fleeing the Isil advance.

However, both Mr Kerry and Mr Hammond gave a much more cautious reaction to the Turkish proposal that the Pentagon said was not part of its current military planning. "The buffer zone is an idea that's been out there. It's worth looking at very, very closely," said Mr Kerry, before cautioning that the idea needed a "thorough examination" before any steps were taken to implement it.

Buffer

Mr Hammond added: "The idea of a buffer zone is one that has been floated.

"We have to explore with our other allies and partners what is meant by a buffer zone and how such a concept would work, but I certainly wouldn't want to rule it out at this stage."

Yesterday, Kobane remained under intense attack from Isil, within sight of Turkish tanks that have so far done nothing to help.

US officials were quoted voicing impatience with the Turks for refusing to join the coalition against Isil.

Last week, US Vice President Joe Biden was forced to apologise after Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took umbrage at comments he made at Harvard University, in which he blamed Turkey's open borders for allowing Isil to bring in recruits.

Turkey says it could join but only if Washington agrees to use force against Syrian President Assad as well as the Sunni Muslim jihadists fighting him in a three-year-old civil war.

Irish Independent