Jubilant Kurdish fighters ousted ISIS militants from the key Syrian border town of Kobani yesterday after a 4-month battle—a significant victory for both the Kurds and the US-led coalition. The Kurds raised their flag on a hill that once flew the group's black banner. On Kobani's war-ravaged streets, gunmen fired in the air in celebration, male and female fighters embraced, and troops danced in their baggy uniforms. The failure to capture Kobani was a major blow to the extremists whose hopes for an easy victory dissolved into a costly siege under withering airstrikes by coalition forces and an assault by the Kurdish militia.
For the US and its partners, Kobani became a strategic prize, especially after they increased the number of airstrikes against ISIS fighters there in October. "Daesh gambled on Kobani and lost," says a senior Kurdish official, using the Arabic acronym for the group. "Their defenses have collapsed and its fighters have fled." Other officials say the militants left many dead bodies and some weapons behind when they fled. The focus is now expected to shift to several hundred villages around Kobani still held by the militants. Kurdish activists say they expect the fight for those to be easier than for the town itself. (Read more Kobani stories.)