Green drapes were drawn against the sun, cloaking the room where members of a Syrian Kurdish militia huddled around walkie-talkies, assiduously taking down GPS coordinates.
Talal Raman, a 36-year-old Kurdish fighter, worked on a Samsung tablet, annotating a Google Earth map marked with the positions of the deserted apartment buildings and crumbling villas from where his colleagues were battling Islamic State fighters south of this northern Syrian town. He pinpointed in yellow the positions where his men were hunkered behind a wall, and highlighted in red the coordinates of a building next to a mosque where Islamic State fighters had taken cover.
“Our comrades can see the enemy moving at the GPS address I just sent you,” he wrote in Arabic to a handler hundreds of miles away in a United States military operations room. Then he waited for the American warplanes to scream in.
The strike that ensued soon after blasted a crater at exactly the coordinates provided by the Kurdish fighter. It left a circle of bodies, including one of an Islamic State fighter who died slumped over his AK-47. An urgent message came in from the coalition war room: “Please confirm our comrades are O.K.?”