WASHINGTON, W.Va. — As many as 300 U.S. Special Forces soldiers will be going into Iraq to serve as additional advisers to the Iraqi military which is fighting to hold off ISIL — the Sunni insurgents who crossed the Syrian border on a march to Baghdad.
President Barack Obama made the announcement on Thursday afternoon at the White House. It’s one of several steps, he said, the U.S. is taking in response to the growing violence in Iraq.
President Obama again ruled out sending U.S. combat troops to Iraq, but said the U.S. was “repositioning its military assets” in the region and would take “targeted and precise military action” against ISIL, the Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant, if improved intelligence gathering showed such actions were warranted.
“It is clear that only leaders that can govern with an inclusive agenda are going to be able to truly bring the Iraqi people together and help them through this crisis,” the President said in comments that seemed to be directed at Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki who had requested U.S. airstrikes.
“The United States will not pursue military options that support one sect inside of Iraq at the expense of another. There’s no military solution inside of Iraq, certainly not one that is lead by the United States.” President Obama said local Iraqi forces will have to take the lead.
Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, called for as much — earlier in the day — on Thursday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
“We have Maliki here who is saying, ‘We need your help with airstrikes.’ But, before we take one step forward, I want to know what Maliki has. What is his commitment? What is he willing to do?”
As for those in the U.S. military, “They’ve done their job. American troops and sailors and soldiers have done their jobs and it’s now time for the Iraqis to take responsibility for themselves,” said Tennant.
She said the defense of Iraq must begin with Iraqis. “I want to know what their intentions are — where is their commitment? Certainly, I do not want to see boots on the ground.”
Additionally, President Obama said the U.S. would lead a diplomatic effort to work with Iraqi leaders and the other countries in the Middle East to support stability in Iraq. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was scheduled to leave Washington, D.C. this weekend for meetings in the Middle East and Europe.
The last of the U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq in 2011 following more than eight years of war.