Obama plans to send military advisers to Iraq


by David Jackson, USA TODAY


Posted on June 19, 2014 at 11:05 AM

Updated Thursday, Jun 19 at 12:24 PM

WASHINGTON -- President Obama said Thursday he will send up to 300 military advisers to Iraq to help retrain Iraqi security forces as they battle an insurgent invasion.

"Armed forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq," Obama said in a White House announcement.

Obama also announced that he will dispatch Secretary of State John Kerry to the region for diplomatic efforts that include demands for a more inclusive government in Iraq.

While some allies have called for removal of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Obama told reporters that "it's not our job to choose Iraq's leaders."

Obama's comments came after a meeting with his national security team on options that also include the possibility of future air strikes.

In addition to military advisers, Obama said he is planning to create "joint operation centers" with the Iraqi military, to help coordinate intelligence and surveillance of insurgent forces that have already taken several major Iraqi cities and are threatening a march on Baghdad.

The president has long vowed not to re-insert combat troops into Iraq. Military advisers would be used to train Iraq's military, gather intelligence, and help identify possible targets against an insurgent army that is threatening Baghdad.

Obama said the United States has an interesting in preventing civil war in Iraq, and making sure it does not become a new haven for terrorists planning to attack the United States. But he said it's up to Iraq to solve its problems, and American help will be supportive in nature.

The advisers will not be combat troops, and "I think we always have to guard against mission creep," Obama said.

The president's national security meeting came a day after he reviewed the Iraq situation with members of the bipartisan leadership in Congress.

The administration is also making diplomatic moves. They are urging al-Maliki, a Shiite prime minister, to put together a more inclusive new government that involves Sunnis and Kurds.

Some U.S. lawmakers and allies have called for al-Maliki to step down from power before the U.S. takes any action to help Iraq; a spokesman for al-Maliki has said he has no plans to leave.

The Iraqi government has formally requested U.S. air strikes against the invading forces.

Secretary of State Kerry, a participant in Obama's national security meeting, told NBC News that "what the United States is doing is about Iraq -- it is not about Maliki."