Thousands of radical jihadists have come to Syria and Iraq from all over the world to join the fighting efforts of ISIS (also known as ISIL, or just IS for Islamic State). Now, countless hundreds of these foreign jihadists are dead, according to a senior U.S. official, particularly in the wake of the striking Kurdish victory over ISIS in the strategic, symbolic, and brutal fight for the Syrian town of Kobane, reports AFP.
Backing the Kurdish fighters, U.S.-led airstrikes also played a pivotal role in ousting ISIS and its invading militants from Kobane, not to mention doing its share of damage to ISIS forces and foreign recruits.
While the people of Kobane danced in the battle-torn streets, the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) declared the "liberation" of Kobane on Monday, ISIS and its militants largely vanquished and beaten back from the town that it so desperately wanted to add to the large areas of Iraq and Syria it had already absorbed in the past year.
"(ISIS) is now, whether on order or whether they are breaking ranks, is beginning to withdraw from the town," said a senior official from the State Department.
According to observers, ISIS lost nearly 1,200 in the battle for Kobane. This despite the fact that ISIS forces had Kurdish forces outgunned, thanks to the sophisticated weaponry ISIS was previously able to steal from abandoned Iraqi and Syrian military bases.
"We don't get into body counts, but it's in the four figures in terms of the overall number of (ISIS) fighters that have been killed," said the official.
Many of those killed while fighting for ISIS and Kobane were foreigners from countries such as Australia, Belgium, Canada, and elsewhere, and while no firm numbers of how many of those killed were foreign, officials did say that "it was hugely, hugely significant."
While ISIS still occupies large areas of Syria and Iraq, their being denied Kobane by Kurdish and U.S.-led forces is a powerful blow.
"The entire notion of this organization which is on the march, inevitable expansion, (its) overall momentum has been halted at Kobane," said the official.
It is believed Kurdish fighters have now taken control of around 90 percent of Kobane, a town that just months ago seemed likely to fall into the hands of ISIS.
In its attempt to capture Kobane, ISIS committed a large amount of its best foreign fighters to the effort, according to the State Department official. But in the last six weeks, Kurdish forces -- many of them female fighters -- and the U.S. strikes from the air began to take their toll, inflicting heavy losses on the ISIS fighters and causing division in the ranks.
ISIS has even reportedly put some of their foreign fighters to death for refusing to join the fight for Kobane.
A lot was at stake for ISIS in their attempt to take Kobane, with extensive coverage by both the international media and their own "slick" propaganda and recruitment arm. ISIS "wanted to raise the largest flag they ever made over Kobane," said the U.S. official.
By failing to take Kobane, foreign ISIS recruits may think twice before coming to Syria or Iraq.
"Kobane shows that you're not going to be part of something great... so the whole narrative that (ISIS) is trying to put out, Kobane really puts a dent in it."At the same time, the positive news for Kurdish fighters and the U.S. also comes with a sobering warning, that ISIS and its militants are "adaptive and resilient," and that now's not the time to declare "mission accomplished."
But there's no question that ISIS being stopped and beaten, and the battle for Kobane has taken away much of the worthwhile and romantic visions that ISIS has been selling to mostly discontented young men looking for some life's purpose and adventure. In fact, for many ISIS recruits, the idea of fighting for ISIS in Kobane, or elsewhere, may no longer seem like such a great option.
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