Turkish Kurds watch the Syrian town of Kobani from near the Mursitpinar border crossing, on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc, October 19, 2014. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
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Dusty and remote, the Syrian city of Ain al-Arab has become an unlikely spoil in the war waged by ISIS militants – and far more of a strategic prize than the United States wants to admit. Perched on Turkey's border, the Kurdish-majority city of about 60,000 has been besieged for weeks by ISIS fighters. This week, the U.S. dramatically upped its airstrikes against ISIS in and around Kobani, including 59 strikes over the last four days alone, as of Friday.Several hundred ISIS fighters were killed, the Pentagon said. Publicly, the Pentagon and State Department say the reasons for the increased airstrikes in Ain al-Arab are twofold: The city has become an easier target in recent days due to an influx of ISIS fighters who have gathered there, and the strikes serve as a humanitarian relief mission to protect the city while Kurdish fighters reorganize their front.The fighters in Ain al-Arab are affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, which both Turkey and the U.S. consider a terrorist organization.A loss to a ragtag group of Kurdish fighters would be a propaganda loss for ISIS.That alone makes the battle a must-win fight for the U.S. strategy.
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