President Obama notified Congress on Monday about his decision to send about 275 U.S. military personnel to Iraq to “provide support and security for U.S. personnel and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad” in the wake of territorial gains made by the jihadist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
“This force is deploying for the purpose of protecting U.S. citizens and property, if necessary, and is equipped for combat,” Obama said in a letter to lawmakers. “This force will remain in Iraq until the security situation becomes such that it is no longer needed.”
The White House press secretary said the deployment of the US Armed Forces personnel is “consistent with the War Powers Resolution.”
“The personnel will provide assistance to the Department of State in connection with the temporary relocation of some staff from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to the U.S. Consulates General in Basra and Erbil and to the Iraq Support Unit in Amman,” the press secretary said in a statement.
“These U.S. military personnel are entering Iraq with the consent of the Government of Iraq. The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad remains open, and a substantial majority of the U.S. Embassy presence in Iraq will remain in place and the embassy will be fully equipped to carry out its national security mission.”
The Pentagon said 170 of the troops arrived over the weekend in Baghdad and another 100 were moved into the region to help with embassy security as some of the staff was being relocated in the area. The embassy remains open and operating, reports USA Today.
The move comes as jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) battle Iraqi security forces for control of a strategic northern town, and Washington weighs possible drone strikes against the militants.
John Kerry, US secretary of state, said on Monday that drone strikes were “not the whole answer” to the ISIL’s campaign but added they they could be “one of the options that are important”.
Obama’s options include increasing security and training in Iraq, though National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden stressed that would not involve combat troops. “The president was very clear that we will not be sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq,” she said.
Iraq has requested the hastened delivery of major weapons orders, including dozens of F-16 fighter jets contracted with Lockheed Martin and dozens of Boeing’s Apache helicopters, to counter the insurgent fighters.
Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said the troops on standby could “provide airfield management, security, and logistics support, if required.” They could work with embassy security teams or operate as a stand-alone force as directed.
A White House official also said Monday that the Obama administration is considering the deployment of a small contingent of Special Forces to Iraq, specifically to help Mouri al-Maliki’s government slow the advance of the Sunni insurgents.
Fighting against the Shia governments of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad and Bashar Assad in Damascus has also allowed the Sunni organization to recruit thousands of people under its aim of eventually turning the entire region into an ultraconservative Muslim caliphate, sais RT.