WASHINGTON (AP) — Dusty and remote, the Syrian city of Kobani has become an unlikely spoil in the war against Islamic State militants — and far more of a strategic prize than the United States wants to admit.

The city of about 60,000 residents has been under siege for nearly a month as local Kurdish fighters try to keep the Islamic militants from overtaking it.

The Obama administration has declared Kobani a humanitarian disaster, but not a factor in the overall military strategy to defeat the Islamic State group.

But this week, the U.S. dramatically upped its air power strikes against Islamic militants in and around Kobani, including 53 strikes over the last three days alone.

Now, the former American ambassador to Syria says the U.S. cannot afford to lose Kobani.

(Story by: Lara Jakes, National Security Writer, The Associated Press)