Obama will send 300 ‘advisers’ to Iraq, open to ‘targeted’ action

‘American combat troops will not be fighting in Iraq again’

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Given the rising threat, the president said the U.S. has “significantly increased our intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets so that we’ve got a better picture of what’s taking place inside of Iraq.”

“We’re developing more information about potential targets associated with ISIL, and 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,” Mr. Obama said.

The Pentagon has been flying unarmed drones over Iraq for the past six months at the request of Mr. al-Maliki. Those drones have been gathering intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance information, essentially allowing the U.S. government to give Iraq a picture of the group’s movements.

In the past several days, the Pentagon has increased the number of drone flights. Now, the Pentagon is looking to the 300 advisers on the ground to provide direction on how to increase its intelligence-gathering efforts, the official said.

“Part of what these 300 advisers will do is help us determine what additional [intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance] assets are required,” the official said.

Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey could be targeted by the Islamic militant group, according to a Defense Department official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Within the past week, Pentagon personnel have been in contact with representatives of all three countries regarding ISIL, according to the official.

In recent days, ISIL has slowed its pace, running into opposition in the portion of the country where Shiite Muslims have a stronghold.

“They had that one kind of lightning run through the north, but now they’ve kind of stopped,” the official said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said the crisis in Iraq is a direct result of Mr. Obama’s eagerness to disengage militarily from trouble spots around the world.

“The threat from al Qaeda and other affiliated groups has now metastasized,” Mr. McConnell said on the Senate floor Thursday. “The dogged adherence to withdrawing our conventional strength and sticking to campaign promises has created a more dangerous world, not a more stable one.”

Republicans have criticized Mr. Obama for failing to leave a residual force of U.S. troops in Iraq in 2011. The president insisted Thursday that wasn’t his fault because Mr. al-Maliki’s government refused a U.S. demand to grant immunity to American troops.

“That’s a core requirement that we have for U.S. troop presence anywhere,” Mr. Obama said. “The Iraqi government and Prime Minister Maliki declined to provide us that immunity.”

⦁ This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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