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Obama considers special forces to help in Iraq


WASHINGTON (AP) -- The White House is considering sending a small number of American special forces soldiers to Iraq in an urgent attempt to help the government in Baghdad slow the nation's rampant Sunni insurgency, U.S. officials said Monday.

While President Barack Obama has explicitly ruled out putting U.S. troops into direct combat in Iraq, the plan under consideration suggests he would be willing to send Americans into a collapsing security situation for training and other purposes.

Three U.S. officials familiar with ongoing discussions said the potential of sending special forces to Iraq is high on a list of military options that are being considered.

It's not clear how quickly the special forces could arrive in Iraq. It's also unknown whether they would remain in Baghdad or be sent to the nation's north, where the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has overrun several cities in the worst threat to the Shiite-led government since U.S. troops left in 2011.

White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said no combat troops would be sent to Iraq, but that the U.S. is looking at other options.

"The president was very clear that we will not be sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq," Hayden said in a statement. "That remains the case and he has asked his national security team to prepare a range of other options that could help support Iraqi security forces."

She said the U.S. has been increasing its security assistance to Baghdad over the last year, including training missions inside Iraq. 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 evacuated last week. They included 12 U.S. government officials and military personnel who have been training Iraqi forces to use fighter jets and surveillance drones.

The mission almost certainly would be small: one U.S. official said it could be up to 100 special forces soldiers. It also could be authorized only as an advising and training mission - meaning the soldiers would work closely with Iraqi forces that are fighting the insurgency but not officially be considered as combat troops.

The troops would fall under the authority of the U.S. ambassador and would not be authorized to engage in combat, another U.S. official said. Their mission is "non-operational training" of both regular and counter terrorism units, which the military has interpreted to mean training on military bases, not in the field, the official said.

The three U.S. officials all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the plans by name.

An Iraqi official did not deny the possibility of U.S. special forces returning to Iraq, but would only confirm that all options are being considered. The Iraqi official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive diplomatic issue more candidly.

Already, about 100 Marines and Army soldiers have been sent to Baghdad to help with embassy security, according to a U.S. official.

Obama made the end of the war in Iraq one of his signature campaign issues, and has touted the U.S. military withdrawal in December 2011 as one of his top foreign policy successes. Over the last week, as the ramped-up insurgency has captured large swaths of territory collaring Baghdad, Obama has been caught between Iraqi officials pleading for help and his anti-war political base which is demanding that the U.S. stay out of the fight.

The White House also is considering launching air strikes and increased surveillance over insurgent bastions to thwart ISIL's march toward Baghdad after capturing the Sunni-dominated cities of Fallujah, Mosul and Tikrit. The insurgency also has overrun smaller towns between Baghdad and the Syrian border, including on Monday the northwest city of Tal Afar.


AP writers Ken Dilanian and Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report.

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dianaa2002 June 16 2014 at 5:16 PM

ok did I hear it wrong when it was reported that the Iraqi troops laid down their weapons & ran? how many Americans are we going to get killed before we say "enough is enough"? so sick of hearing this crap about Iraq. If they dont have the courage to defend their country, why must we?

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32 replies
mamaava June 16 2014 at 5:22 PM

Obama is SUCH A LIAR!!! He said over the weekend...NO American troops will go to Iraq...today, in the eye doctors, I heard on tv, he's sending "a few"...whatever the H... THAT means!! Is there something in the Democratic water that causes Presidents to play WORD GAMES with people??? Clinton with "what is "is"...and Obama, "NO troops" oh, and, "I've drawn a line in the sand!" CAN America stand too much of this guy????

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34 replies
bullmesht June 16 2014 at 5:15 PM

stay the hell out

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10 replies
acqcon June 16 2014 at 5:16 PM

Bo and Hillary screwed up again! What foreign policy? Maybe he should get advice from Putin.

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13 replies
b515 June 16 2014 at 5:33 PM

Hmmmm..seems King Obama and his court jester, Biden, were completely wrong about Iraq. No big deal, his minions will just look the other way.

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8 replies
Buckingham's June 16 2014 at 5:22 PM

First this idiot said there would be NO ground troops in Iraq. NOW he's mulling it over?

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8 replies
cptberm55 June 16 2014 at 5:24 PM

The idiot has lost his mind what little he had ..Top brass told him to keep a contingent of forces there because of his ignorance he refused to listen now he wants to send more troops in for fresh targets for the murdering bastards he just released.I say go to hell you commie back stabber......

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11 replies
dackohersh June 16 2014 at 5:20 PM

don't "mull" just don't send anyone. 4400 dead americans and billion (all borrowed from china) wasted is too much already, especially the dead

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10 replies
Stan June 16 2014 at 5:34 PM

lets send Obama's kids, they could be the water boys. I want to take my hat off to all the
a-- h--- that voted for him? you wanted change.... there is this old saying ,the more things change the more they remain the same............

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12 replies
Carol June 16 2014 at 6:45 PM

Don't bother BO with this war stuff right now. He's busy writing another executive order for the LGBT folks ...

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1 reply
daradams Carol June 16 2014 at 6:46 PM

Yep.. and right on the heels of that will be a phone and pen order for legalization of the border people...

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1 reply
Carol daradams June 16 2014 at 6:56 PM

daradams - because 11,000,000 just isn't quite enough

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