Iraq: Obama to send 300 military advisers
President Barack Obama has said he is sending up to 300 military advisers to help the Iraqi government in its fight against Islamic extremists as a battle over Iraq's biggest refinery continues to rage.
Speaking at the White House last night, Mr Obama said he was prepared to take “targeted” military action but stressed that US troops would not return to combat in Iraq.
He said additional equipment and up to 300 additional military advisers would be provided to help battle the Islamic extremist group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), which has seized large swathes of the country.
The contingent will be made up of special forces and will staff joint operations centres for intelligence sharing and planning, officials said.
“American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq but we will help Iraqis as they take the fight to terrorists who threaten the Iraqi people, the region and American interests as well,” Mr Obama said.
The president also said he was sending Secretary of State John Kerry to the Middle East and Europe at the weekend for talks with US allies and partners on ways to stabilise the region.
A US official added Mr Kerry was “expected to go Iraq soon” to meet Iraqi officials, but did not specify a date.
Mr Obama stressed Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki needed to take urgent steps to heal Iraq's sectarian rift, but stopped short of calling for him to go, saying: “It's not our job to choose Iraq's leaders.”
He added: “Above all, Iraqi leaders must rise above their differences and come together around a political plan for Iraq's future.”
Leading US lawmakers have joined calls for Mr al Maliki to quit as a condition of US help in driving back the Islamic extremists.