The US will send 300 military advisers to Iraq to assist with training and support to the Iraqi armed offensive against the Sunni rebels, President Barack Obama announced today. He made it clear that US troops would not participate in any military actions in the Arab country.
"We always have to guard against mission creep," the president said. "American combat troops are not going to be fighting in Iraq again."
The president said Washington would consider military air strikes against the Sunni rebels if and when “precise targets are provided.” Although he said that for the time being, none were being planned.
"It's going to need more help from us, and it's going to need more help from the international community," Obama said Thursday. "I don't rule out anything because we do have a stake in making sure that these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold in either Iraq or Syria."
The jihadists he is referring to belong to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, which wants to establish an Islamic caliphate, or state, in the region. It's already had significant success to date in Syria, where it has been engaged in the civil war against President Bashar al-Assad's government, and in Iraq, where its fighters recently took over the nation's second-largest city of Mosul.
“We already have advisers in Iraq through the US Embassy and we will soon began to send small groups of advisers to evaluate how we can better train and assist Iraqi military forces,” he said.
American military forces in Iraq have intensified in the last few days their activities to gather intelligence about the situation in the embattled country and would be prepared to “take specific and precise military actions if required,” Obama said.
The US President also announced that Secretary of State John Kerry will be traveling to the Middle East and Europe this weekend to head diplomatic efforts to promote stability in the region.
The United States invaded Iraq in 2003 to topple then President Saddam Hussein and in 2011 removed all its troops from the Asian country, delivering the responsibility of security Maliki, who has been under heavy criticism blamed for increasing sectarian divisions and conflicts.
In other developments, sources from the office of Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki were quoted saying that government troops had halted Sunni attacks on Baghdad and for the time being would not be requiring US air strikes against the rebels.
Military forces also regained “complete control” of the Baji oil refinery, located 200 kilometers north of the Iraqi capital, which is the biggest of the country with an estimated daily production of over 600,000 barrels per day.
“After intense combats against the Sunni rebels, military forces were successful in recovering the Baji oil complex,” said Qassem Atta, security spokesman for Maliki.
According to witnesses, the ISIS backed rebels abandoned the refinery after losing 70 combatants during the fighting against government troops.
Since June 9, when the Sunni rebels launched their armed offensive, the insurgents have taken control of Mosul, major parts of the Ninive Province and other northern sectors.