US chose wrong path, ISIL took Kobane arms, Erdoğan says
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan speaks to the media before his departure to Latvia, Oct. 22. AA PhotoTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he has been proven right for his objections to the U.S. airdropping of weapons to the Syrian border town of Kobane, claiming that some of the supplies ended up in the hands of jihadist militants.
“It has emerged that what was done was wrong,” Erdoğan said on Oct. 22, referring to the airdropping of weapons by U.S.-led coalition forces intended for Kurdish militiamen and Democratic Union Party (PYD) forces battling the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Kobane.
Erdoğan’s remarks came in response to reporters’ questions at a press conference ahead of his departure for official visits to Latvia and Estonia. The questions focused on media reports suggesting that allowing Peshmerga forces to cross into Kobane was a U-turn in Turkey’s policy and that it was a result of Washington’s pressure on its NATO ally.
Erdoğan referred to his latest telephone conversation with U.S. President Barack Obama which took place at the initiative of the latter on the early morning of Oct. 19 upon the former’s arrival in Istanbul from an official visit to Afghanistan.
It was the night of Oct. 19 when the U.S. Central Command announced that in multiple airdrops, U.S. Air Force C-130 aircraft “delivered weapons, ammunition and medical supplies that were provided by Kurdish authorities in Iraq and intended to enable continued resistance against ISIL’s attempts to overtake Kobane.”
A reporter recalled this flow of events and asked Erdoğan to make clear whether U.S. airdropping of weapons came despite his warning during the conversation with Obama.
“You got it right; that’s what I want to explain. That’s to say, it has emerged that what was done was wrong, why it was wrong,” Erdoğan said.
He said only some of the weapons had reached the PYD, while some ended up in the hands of ISIL militants, citing a video uploaded by a media group affiliated with ISIL apparently showing the seizure of at least one cache of airdropped weapons.
Noting that the United States as also acknowledged that some of the weapons its forces dropped to defenders of Kobane felt into the hands of Islamic State forces, Erdoğan said: “Such an operation cannot be defined and explained. That’s to say, a healthy comment cannot be made in regards to whether a result will be obtained through this or not. To whom and to where you are lending support, everything is obvious.”
“During our telephone conversation with Mr. Obama, it was me who already made this proposal to him,” Erdoğan said of a telephone conversation with U.S. President Barack Obama, referring to Turkey’s consent to allow Peshmerga troops to cross Turkish territory to reinforce and supply the city of Kobane.
“We told [Obama] that ‘Support that you will lend to the PYD and the PKK [the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] is not acceptable for us,’” Erdoğan added.
The Turkish president indicated that Obama explained urgency of the situation in Kobane suggesting that anti-jihadist forces could only resist for two days more in case of inaction.
“Two days passed, we are in the third-fourth day, Kobane didn’t fall. Moreover, I have difficulty in understanding why Kobane is this much strategic for them [the U.S.] because there is no civilian left in Kobane anymore; 200,000 people crossed into Turkey and we are hosting them. Only around 2,000 fighters left in Kobane and they didn’t say ‘yes’ to Peshmerga first but now, at the last moment, they said ‘yes.’ And we told them [Obama] we would be ‘helpful’ about this,” Erdoğan said.
The Washington Post reported on Oct. 21 that ISIL had released a new video in which it brags that it recovered weapons and supplies that the U.S. military intended to deliver to Kurdish fighters in Syria. At one point, the video appears to show a masked militant raking his hands through a crate filled with hand grenades.
The SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks jihadist social media accounts, drew attention to the video on the same day.
Pentagon officials said a U.S. airdrop had delivered 28 bundles of military supplies to Syrian Kurdish fighters near Kobane on Oct. 20 and reported that two went astray. One bundle fell to ISIL fighters, while the other one was destroyed, according to the Pentagon.