Zara Misto is prominent journalist and Chief Editor of http://www.Welati.net who has been in Kobane since ISIS attacks against the city. We have discussed the situation in Kobane and balance of war between YPG and ISIS.
Mr. Misto, what is the latest situation in Kobane? What is taking place in war front, what is the situation of the air strikes?
As you know the clashes have been going on for over two months with no respite. In the past week, there were very intense fights took place, and many ISIS militants were killed in these clashes. Of course Kurdish forces also had martyrs. After the clashes on the eastern front, in Sukul Hal and industrial region and regions near Asayish, the Kurdish forces made progress and got a few new points under its control. These gains were partially made possible by peshmergas’ attacks with cannons on positions under ISIS’s control.
Last week an ISIS tank was destroyed in an operation carried by the YPG forces in south of Kobane. American warplanes have been striking ISIS’s positions in eastern and western fronts when needed. We can say that ISIS has not been able to move forward. To the contrary, the Kurdish forces are moving forward, despite continuous support that is flowing to the ISIS from Manbij and Raqqa. However, the fact that YPG forces now control some important ISIS supply routes provides a significant advantage for the Kurds. I can tell you that ISIS is suffering a great loss of morale, while Kurdish forces are making important gains.
You say the morale of the YPG, Peshmerga and the FSA are high, and ISIS is suffering a great loss of morale. But somehow a desired progress is lacking, isn’t it?
25-30 % of Kobane is in the hands of the ISIS. They exercise control over, Kaniya Ereban and Miqtela regions in the east, and over the 48th Street in south. The strategic attacks of the Kurdish forces cost ISIS great losses, hundreds of them got killed, they have thousands of wounded. Of course Kurds also have some 200 losses and wounded. This symbolizes a great resistance. The latest tactic of the YPG was based on –rather than gaining new grounds- to wait for their attack and kill as many of them as possible. This tactic has worked successfully. The more ISIS attacked, the more they suffered casualties. As you can see, the reason why there has not been a noticeable pull-back [by ISIS] is that there is a street by street fight in the city. As in the case of Aleppo, in all Syrian cities the same thing is taking place.
ISIS was planning to quickly take control of the Kobane city which it besieged from three sides and attacked with cannons and tanks. The fact that it has failed to establish control over the city yet, is truly a great success of the YPG. As I have stated, Kurdish forces have wrested a few new points from ISIS. I want to add that ISIS wanted to advance by means of suicide bombing and other savage methods, but that failed too due to YPG’s taking effective precautions against such attacks.
Public opinion ties gain to taking control of a new place. However you say that the real deal is to inflict losses on ISIS. That is the YPG implements hit- and-run tactics, did I understand it correctly?
Yes, exactly! Hit and run tactics are being implemented by YPG. With these tactics, we inflicted heavy casualties on ISIS and took control of new places from them.
Yet, I want to add a point here: some places that ISIS withdraws from carry the danger of being booby-trapped or ambushed. To clear things, require time, this is the rule of street fight.
Nevertheless, we can say that Kurdish forces have been greatly successful. Both the peshmerga and the US airstrikes had a great impact on this. The terrorist organization ISIS that targeted the world is breaking down in Kobane day by day. If the aid and airstrikes of world countries continue in this manner, ISIS will pull back completely; it will suffer a great defeat in both Western and Southern of Kurdistan [Syrian and Iraqi Kurdistan].
Some in the international media write that peshmerga forces failed to display a positive or expected impact. How do you evaluate the support that peshmerga forces provide to the YPG?
The heavy weapons that peshmergas use play an important role in our attacks. ISIS cannot advance due to these strikes that target ISIS positions. Take away the US airstrikes and the recent peshmerga involvement; it would have been much harder to defend Kobane as YPG had very light weapons against the ISIS.
There were some Free Syrian Army (FSA) groups under the name of ‘Euphrates’ Volcano’ before and another FSA group under Abdul Jabbar Akidi came in later on. The arrival of latter created a huge ruckus. What would you say in this regard?
Groups that are fighting under the name of ‘Euphrates’ Volcano’ are Tuwar al-Raqqa, Shams al-Shamal and Jabhat al-Akrad. Ever since the attacks on Kobane started, these groups suffered tens of martyrs and wounded. The newly arrived FSA group of Akidi came in as a result of some external powers. YPG agreed on their arrival but they have no impact at all. They were about 50 people and approximately 15 of them went back. They went back due to disagreements among themselves, not due to any reason relating to the YPG. Those who remained have not joined in battle yet.
If they have not joined the battle, why are they there?
They said they wanted to enter Kobane and help. We are still waiting to see!
I wanted you to evaluate the role of the YPG a bit. While two months have passed since the siege of Kobane, how would you evaluate YPG’s role and the struggle it pursues with coalition forces in this war against the ISIS?
The YPG was first to draw world’s attention to this ISIS danger that now threatens everybody. A year ago, the YPG made this call and in Rojava and other regions has protected the Kurdish, Christian and Arab population. We drew the attention to the fact that ISIS was the enemy of the revolution in Syria and a threat to the entire Middle East. The YPG suffered hundreds of losses in its fight against the ISIS. We can say that today the YPG represents the whole world, because the ISIS threatens the entire world. While couple of months ago only experts knew its name, today it is known world-wide and YPG is becoming a brand name for the Kurds.
The YPG pursues the war within the rules of the international law. For example, it captured a wounded emir (prince) of ISIS and took him to the hospital for treatment. We do not kill the war captives. That is we behave like the army of an international state. The YPG is defending its people, it did not attack anyone. Kurds, Syriacs, Arabs and Turkomans make up the ranks of the YPG, and lately, fighters have joined us from America and Europe. Not only now, but for a year now the YPG is gaining success.
On November 1st, there were demonstrations for Kobane world over. How did this affect you as a civilian, knowing that you were not alone and Kobane was not forgotten?
This was a very important development for the YPG and civilians in Kobane. That is because Kobane has shouldered an important duty for the entire world. ISIS is targeting the entire world and the YPG as an organization is struggling for her people and for the entire world because ISIS is a threat for entire globe. With the collaboration of the YPG, the peshmerga and Euphrates’ Volcano and the American airstrikes, we believe that we will rout the ISIS from the entirety of our region.
For my participation to a show, interview me or get a quote on Kobane and other Kurdish related issues, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for Burhan Elturan for translating this interview into English