WASHINGTON — President Obama announced American service members are going back to Iraq Thursday in a statement from the White House, but he emphasized that they are not going back to engage in ground combat.
At the same time, Obama reserved the right to launch air strikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) forces that have thrown Iraq into chaos.
The president said “up to 300” military advisers will be sent to Iraq to assist the Iraqi military in its fight against ISIS. Obama also said new surveillance assets and two “centers” on the ground in Iraq (one in north of the country and one in Baghdad) will aid in sharing intelligence with Iraqi forces.
Obama has already sent a carrier battle group to the Middle East as the situation in Iraq deteriorated. The president said the ships and other new assets in the region give the United States the option of direct strikes on ISIS.
“We will be prepared to take targeted and precise military action,” Obama said.
It’s not clear how Congress will react to Obama’s new moves in Iraq. While some hawks have called for immediate U.S. involvement to protect the Iraqi regime from ISIS, a swatch of Democrats and Republicans have urged Obama to avoid taking action without a sign-off from lawmakers. Obama said he will work with Congress as the new Iraq involvement goes forward, but he didn’t say whether or not Congress will have a say in what military actions are taken.
Obama, who entered office on the promise to end U.S. involvement in Iraq, took effort to emphasize that another full-scale war in the country was not his plan.
“Let me repeat what I’ve said in the past: American combat troops are not going to be fighting in Iraq again. We do not have the ability to simply solve this problem by sending in tens of thousands of troops and committing the kinds of blood and treasure that has already been expended in Iraq,” Obama said. “Ultimately, this is something that is going to have to be solved by the Iraqis.”