Obama to send 300 trops to act as 'advisers' in Iraq
WASHINGTON — President Obama announced on Thursday that he is sending up to 300 troops to Iraq to help Iraqi military forces deal with an onslaught by radical Islamist fighters inspired by al-Qaida.
In addressing the Iraq situation, Obama insisted he would not send combat troops back to Iraq. He said the contingent he is sending would operate as “advisers.”
He stopped short of openly calling for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to step down, but he stressed that Iraq needs leadership that is more accommodating toward the country's ethnic and religious minorities.
“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,” Obama said.
He said that “we've positioned additional U.S. military assets in the region” and that increased intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance efforts are helping to develop “more information about potential targets” associated with militants of the radical Sunni Muslim group, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.
Obama added that “going forward, we will be prepared to take targeted and precise military action if and when we determine that the situation on the ground requires it” — an apparent reference to the prospect of airstrikes. But he emphasized that “the United States will not pursue military actions that support one sect inside of Iraq at the expense of another.”
He said it was not up to the United States to choose Iraq's leaders, but he made it clear that the Maliki government has been unable to bridge “deep divisions” among Iraqi Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds.
The Obama administration is seeking alternatives to Maliki as Iraqis move to form a government from recent parliamentary elections, according to officials.
“Above all, Iraqi leaders must rise above their differences and come together around a political plan for Iraq's future,” Obama said. “Now, it's not the place for the United States to choose Iraq's leaders. It is clear, though, 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.”
Now that the results of Iraq's recent elections have been certified, “a new parliament should convene as soon as possible,” Obama said, adding: “The formation of a new government will be an opportunity to begin a genuine dialogue and forge a government that represents the legitimate interests of all Iraqis.
“We do not have the ability to solve this problem by sending in tens of thousands of troops,” Obama said.
In response to a question about the role of neighboring Iran, which is ruled by Shiite clerics, Obama said: “Iran can play a constructive role if it is helping to send the same message to the Iraqi government that we are sending, which is that Iraq only holds together if it is inclusive. ... If Iran is coming in solely as an armed force on behalf of the Shia, and if it is framed in that fashion, then that probably worsens the situation.”
Obama's decision immediately came under criticism from congressional Republicans.
“The plan that the president announced today in response to the rapid terrorist expansion in Iraq underestimates the seriousness of the threat,” Rep. Edward Royce, R-Calif., said in a statement. “The steps he announced are needed, but fall short of what is required to stop this al-Qaida offshoot from gaining more power, which must include drone strikes.”
Royce chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Although Obama last week ruled out “sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq,” reports emerged on Thursday that the Pentagon had offered him a plan under which up to 100 U.S. Special Operations forces — likely Army Green Berets, Army Rangers and Navy SEALs — would be sent to Iraq to advise its military and collect intelligence.
CNN reported that teams would be placed througout Iraq in the headquarters of Iraqi military brigades and tasked with gathering intelligence on ISIS forces, such as their location, numbers and weaponry. Such information would be needed if Obama decided to go ahead with airstrikes on ISIS forces.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Guatemala president resigns amid corruption probe
- Fake Pakistani IDs card found to be ally for terrorists
- Hungary stands firm, keeps migrants from trains
- China plans display of might with parade
- Beirut protests grow as summer garbage crisis lingers
- Afghan president calls for ‘holy war’ against corruption
- Islamic State kills Iraqi soldiers in 2 ambushes in Anbar province
- Fire at Saudi oil company residence kills 11
- Officer killed in Ukraine clash with nationalist protesters
- Pakistan allows gathering of 1,000 Taliban amid leadership rift