Monday, October 6, 2014

Kurdish Resistance of IS: Fulfilling the Anti-Armor Combat Role

Kobane, a Syrian town resting a long the border of Turkey, has come under siege in recent weeks from IS militants. One of the many complaints expressed from resistance forces was the failure to halt advancing IS tanks and artillery. There are a few potential reasons for this situation.

1. Limited Air Support. Even though there have been hundreds of airstrikes against IS, there have been relatively few against the Syrian-Turkish border in recent days. UAVs have been spotted near Kobane, but they have been unarmed and are likely carrying out reconnaissance.

UAV filmed near Kobane (YouTube, Agency Depths)

2. Limited Armor-Piercing Capability on the Ground. This video shows a YPG militia member firing an RPG-7 variant at an approaching IS tank in Kobane. He fails to hit the intended target and does not reengage. Kobane is now surrounded by IS and ammunition such as anti-armor warheads may be hard to come by; especially since there is no Kurdish supply line running into Kobane.

However, only a week earlier, this video shows YPG fighters defending Kobane with a variety of weapons. They are shown engaging IS infantry with RPGs, an anti-materiel rifle, and an electronic anti-tank system (MANPATS). The video fails to show whether or not the YPG were attacking armored targets, but it highlights that Kurdish resistance is able to obtain anti-armor weapons.

YPG member firing a MANPATS (YouTube, YPG in Syria)
Airstrikes are in high demand for their effectiveness against armored targets. They have proven effective against both mobile and stationary armored targets. However, airstrikes are not as immediate as ground-level resistance against tanks and other vehicles. Kurdish forces have shown that they are equipped with a substantial arsenal to combat armor. An emphasis may need to be placed on creating holes in the IS defense to allow for Kurdish forces to resupply. Synergy between air support and ground forces will be required to neutralize IS armor.

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