Every day, the jihadists of the Islamic State (IS) advance closer to Kobani, a predominantly Kurdish town in northern Syria, close to the Turkish border.
As the Islamic State rains down mortars on the town, the vastly outgunned People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Kurdish militia, are attempting to resist the weeks-long assault.
While Turkish troops watch from across the border and the U.S.-led air campaign continues, none of the powerful forces in the region have intervened decisively — leaving the YPG to face the jihadist advance on its own.
The United States has rejected formal relations with the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the party that is essentially the political wing of the YPG.
The PYD, which has ruled Kobani and other Kurdish enclaves inside Syria since President Bashar al-Assad’s forces withdrew in July 2012, is affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a militant organization that has fought Turkey since 1984 — and has consequently been listed as a terrorist organization by both Turkey and the United States.
But interviews with American and Kurdish diplomats show that Washington opened indirect talks with the PYD years ago, even as it tried to empower the group’s Kurdish rivals and reconcile them with the Free Syrian Army (FSA).