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Obama weighs military options as Iraqi insurgents advance

By Julie Pace & Lara Jakes

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 02:13 p.m. HST, Jun 12, 2014

WASHINGTON >> Less than three years after pulling American forces out of Iraq, President Barack Obama is weighing a range of short-term military options, including airstrikes, to quell an al-Qaida inspired insurgency that has captured two Iraqi cities and threatened to press toward Baghdad.

"We do have a stake in making sure that these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold," Obama said Thursday in the Oval Office.

However, officials firmly ruled out putting American troops back on the ground in Iraq, which has faced resurgent violence since the U.S. military withdrew in late 2011. A sharp burst of violence this week led to the evacuation Thursday of Americans from a major air base in northern Iraq where the U.S. had been training security forces.

Obama, in his first comments on the deteriorating situation, said it was clear Iraq needed additional assistance from the U.S. and international community given the lightning gains by the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Levant. Republican lawmakers pinned some of the blame for the escalating violence on Obama's reluctance to re-engage in a conflict he long opposed.

For more than a year, the Iraqi government has been pleading with the U.S. for additional help to combat the insurgency, which has been fueled by the civil war in neighboring Syria. Northern Iraq has become a way station for insurgents who routinely travel between the two countries and are spreading the Syrian war's violence.

Iraqi leaders made a fresh request earlier this week, asking for a mix of drones and manned aircraft that could be used for both surveillance and active missions. Officials said Obama was considering those requests and was expected to decide on a course of action within a few days.

The U.S. already is flying unmanned aircraft over Iraq for intelligence purposes, an official said.

Short of airstrikes, the president could step up the flow of military assistance to the beleaguered Iraqi government, increase training exercises for the country's security forces and help boost Iraq's intelligence capabilities. The U.S. has been leery of its lethal aid falling into the hands of militants or being otherwise misused.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the U.S. is sending about $12 million in humanitarian aid to help nearly a million Iraqis who have been forced from their homes by recent fighting.

Obama huddled with his national security team Thursday to discuss the deteriorating security situation. And Vice President Joe Biden called Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to underscore that while the U.S. stands ready to help, it would be crucial for Iraq to come up with longer-term solutions to its internal political strife.

Nearly all American troops left Iraq in December 2011 after Washington and Baghdad failed to negotiate a security agreement that would have kept a limited number of U.S. forces in the country for a few more years at least.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a frequent White House critic, called on Thursday for Obama's entire national security team to resign. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, accused the president of "taking a nap" while conditions worsened.

But Congress appeared divided over how to respond, with some Republicans backing airstrikes and other lawmakers from both parties suggesting that was the wrong approach.

There were no calls for putting American troops back on the ground in Iraq, and Obama's advisers said the president had no desire to plunge the U.S. back into a conflict there.

"The president is mindful that the United States has sacrificed a lot in Iraq and we need to not just be taking this all back on ourselves," said Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser. "We need to come up with solutions that can enable the Iraqis to manage their internal security and their internal politics."

Even after American troops left Iraq, the U.S. has continued to send weapons and ammunition -- although not nearly as much as Baghdad has requested. A U.S. training mission for Iraqi counterterror forces dwindled to almost nothing earlier this year, and Baghdad asked as early as last summer for armed U.S. drones to track and strike terrorist hideouts.

The administration resisted, and similarly rejected options for airstrikes in neighboring Syria.

Instead, the U.S. Embassy has sold small scout helicopters, tanks, guns, rockets and at least 300 Hellfire missiles to Iraqi forces. A U.S. shipment of ScanEagle surveillance drones is to be delivered to Iraq later this summer, and the State Department is trying to speed an order of Apache helicopters to Baghdad. Additionally, Congress is reviewing a $1 billion order of arms, including Humvee vehicles, to Iraq.

Several thousand Americans also remain in Iraq, mostly contractors who work at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on programs to train Iraqi forces on American military equipment like fighter jets and tanks. One of the largest training missions was based at the air base in the city of Balad, about an hour northwest of Baghdad, where three planeloads of Americans were being evacuated on Thursday. They included 12 U.S. government officials and military personnel who have been training Iraqi forces to use fighter jets and surveillance drones.


Associated Press writers Robert Burns, Bradley Klapper and Donna Cassata contributed to this report.

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Jerry_D wrote:
"As Iraqi insurgents advance"? That's putting it mildly. Here's another version of what's going on: The Army Times says "Fewer than 1,000 thinly equipped fighters, forces loyal to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, have routed an estimated 30,000 Iraqi army soldiers who were trained by the U.S. military and given billions in sophisticated American military gear." That means this billions of dollars of sophisticated equipment is now in our ENEMY's hands!
on June 12,2014 | 02:28PM
false wrote:
Why the heck did so many die and get maimed for when the U.S. was there? Send in about a 100 or so drones this time.
on June 12,2014 | 02:46PM
hanalei395 wrote:
Saddam Hussein kept al-Qaeda out of his country. He was at war with Islamic fundamentalists who wanted to turn secular Iraq into an Islamic country. He had Christians and women in in his cabinet. His Deputy Prime Minister, Tariq Aziz, was a Catholic. Iraqi Christians celebrated Christmas and Easter. And now, all that is gone. Over 4,500 U.S. troops, dead, for nothing. And tens of thousands wounded. About a million Iraqis, murdered and wounded. A people who did NOTHING to the U.S. ..... All because of a war-mongering idi0t, GW Bush, who actually kicked out the UN weapons inspectors, in Iraq, looking for WMD, so he could start his useless, unnecessary war.
on June 12,2014 | 03:21PM
HawaiiCheeseBall wrote:
Hey wait a minute - the Iraqis had weapons of mass destruction (lie), they had mobile chemical weapons labs (lie), they had drones that could deliver chemical and biological weapons (lie), they were trying to get yellow cake frim Niger (lie), they were cooperating with al-Qaida (lie) we HAVE to go to war. Yep lets place blame for the present situation with the people who lied our way into a war with Iraq. George Bush.
on June 12,2014 | 03:45PM
Ronin006 wrote:
And lets not forget that 50,000 US military personnel died in Vietnam, put there by, OMG, a Democrat named Lyndon Johnson.
on June 12,2014 | 05:58PM
Winston wrote:
Right. He was a peach of a guy who "accidentally" used sarin nerve gas on his own people, who tortured and killed tens of thousands more.

And while you're laying blame on the past idi0t you leave out the current one who is "weighing options", "biding his time". Meanwhile, due to this maroon's forfeiting the game in the fourth quarter (failing to keep a military presence in Iraq after we'd won the war), we face a substantial renewed threat to our vital national interest. If these lunatics can establish themselves and threaten the Saudi oil flow, you're going to get the chance to employ the native practices you're so fond of as our economy slips off the map.

on June 12,2014 | 03:52PM
hanalei395 wrote:
"His own people", Iraqi Kurds, did not consider Saddam as "their own leader". The Kurds wanted northern Iraq to become their "own country", and to be called "Kurdistan", so Saddam declared war on them, like Lincoln declared war on the South. The U.S. agreed with Saddam, and supplied Saddam with the "war material".
on June 12,2014 | 04:12PM
Winston wrote:
on June 12,2014 | 04:55PM
hanalei395 wrote:
on June 12,2014 | 06:41PM
hanalei395 wrote:
In Dec., 1983, Donald Rumsfeld personally delivers war material to Iraq to be used against Iranian troops, and for the first time, meets Saddam Hussein. Saddam, at that time, was America's ally. In 1984, Saddam did use the "war material" against the Iranians. And in 1988, used it against the Kurds. Saddam remained America's ally until he invaded Kuwait in 1990.
on June 12,2014 | 05:31PM
Paulh808 wrote:
Rewriting history to fit your world view is not selling!
on June 12,2014 | 05:59PM
hanalei395 wrote:
Look it up, fool.
on June 12,2014 | 06:09PM
hanalei395 wrote:
On the news, most of the Humvees, about a hundred of the over 200 supplied to the U.S. "trained" Iraqi "Army", and other war material, are being driven to Syria, to supply al-Qaeda fighters, at war against the Bashar al-Assad government.
on June 12,2014 | 04:00PM
HD36 wrote:
The soldiers took off their uniforms and ran for the hills. One side is fighting for Allah, the other for US interests.
on June 12,2014 | 09:57PM
HD36 wrote:
Al Qaida is our friend in Syria and our Enemy in Iraq. All depends if there protecting the US dollar Petro system or against it. Being that they have 1000 factions between 100,0000 fighters, I say we don't give them anymore sophisticated anti tank piercing systems.
on June 12,2014 | 10:14PM
Jerry_D wrote:
I forgot to end my last message with: Thank you, President Barack Obama, for giving slowly giving America away to our enemies. I've been living the free and independent American lifestyle for all of my 48 years....I think it's due time for me to give up everything I've worked for, convert to Islam, and be assimilated into an oppressed Middle Eastern lifestyle. (Not!)
on June 12,2014 | 02:32PM
HawaiiCheeseBall wrote:
Please this has nothing to do with America, it has everything to do with the Iraqi government. The US can do all of the bombing it wants and it won't solve the problem; the corrupt government lead by Nouri al-Maliki. The insurgency is fed by al-Maliki's systematic repression of the Sunni minority in Iraq. We have been telling this fool that the repressing the Sunni minority will only come back to haunt him. All those Sunni fighters, hardened on the battlefields of Syria are now back home to kick some fanny. No worry though, al-Maliki will call upon his best, most favorite friend to bail him out - Iran. Yep you can expect truckloads of fellow Shiites from Iran rolling into Iraq to save the day for ole Nouri. BTW - the next news stories will be the atrocities that will happen to the Sunni civilians of Mosul when the Shiites get back in charge.
on June 12,2014 | 03:01PM
Winston wrote:
"Please this has nothing to do with America,..". Totally, totally wrong. If this leads to the establishment of a radical nation state on the border with Saudi Arabia, a broader regional war is almost a certainty. Given the level of dependence on the oil supplies in the region, such a war has the potential to wreck the global economy, ours included.
on June 12,2014 | 03:58PM
false wrote:
So what's the excuse this time weapon of mass distraction, democracy, etc.? Hey let let's at least for a some oil wells this time.
on June 12,2014 | 02:41PM
Paulh808 wrote:
Very funny except we lost over 4,000 warriors before Obobo walked out with a SOFA. We are living the liberal dream.
on June 12,2014 | 06:02PM
Donna2415 wrote:
To President Obama: Please look up the word "quagmire" in the dictionary.
on June 12,2014 | 02:47PM
false wrote:
Here we go again. It's becoming obvious that our threat is in the middle east, not China or North Korea. Watch for our military to reshift the emphasis there and to hold up on the transition to the Far East.
on June 12,2014 | 03:07PM
false wrote:
Some men jump outta planes... Some sit around and wait
on June 12,2014 | 04:07PM
MrMililani wrote:
Oh no...not again! Thanks George Bush and all the Republicans. This is another nice mess they have gotten us into.
on June 12,2014 | 04:28PM
hanalei395 wrote:
During the 1980's, the U.S. "allies" in Afghanistan fighting the Russians, Ronald Reagan called them "freedom fighters". The U.S. supplied Reagan's "freedom fighters" with billions of $$$$ and high-tech weapons. Today, those former "freedom fighters" (besides Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda), are now called the Taliban.
on June 12,2014 | 04:44PM
Paulh808 wrote:
on June 12,2014 | 06:04PM
hanalei395 wrote:
Actually, the Russians are happy. The U.S. took over, where they left off.
on June 12,2014 | 06:12PM
iwanaknow wrote:
I predict that oil prices will rise and the USA stock market will drop big time. $5.00/gal gas...............so Da Bus, here I come.
on June 12,2014 | 04:40PM
Paulh808 wrote:
Obobo always wanted $5.00 a gallon for gas.
on June 12,2014 | 06:05PM
samidunn wrote:
That's what happens when you tell the US to leave. The country's that ask us to stay, Germany, Japan, Korea all have prospered under our defense umbrella. Look at the problems the Philippines are having with China now. Do you think that China would be taking all those islands if we still had the fleet at Subic Bay.
on June 12,2014 | 04:53PM
64hoo wrote:
why don't they stop calling them Iraq militants, when in reality its all AL- QAEDA they got millions of dollars and 2 cities come on Obama administration its AL-QAEDA and there a lot stronger than they were years ago.
on June 12,2014 | 04:56PM
false wrote:
At least we have podium boy
on June 12,2014 | 05:49PM
Paulh808 wrote:
Don't poke yourself in the eye with it!
on June 12,2014 | 06:06PM
RandolphW wrote:
Wow! Just as with President Obama's policy advisers, no one really seems to know what to do with this ongoing mess.
on June 12,2014 | 06:48PM
UHFAN1984 wrote:
When a people do not want to fight for their own national survival --I have not heard of any resistance by government forces. To me that means they want to be governed by the extremist.All our hardware that we left now belongs to the enemy. Both the Bush and Obama administrations are to blame.
on June 12,2014 | 09:47PM
glenn57377 wrote:
Just like in Vietnam. We left them in charge of their country in Iraq and they had the forces to maintain peace. If a people doesn't have the nads to fight for their own freedom - don't come looking for me to fight for you. We fought for our freedom as a nation and suffered many casualties. If they care enough about their homes and way of life.......they should do the same as we did. Fight hard and to the last man.
on June 12,2014 | 11:40PM
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