Obama: US must examine how assets are being used in IS fight

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Looking to boost Iraqi fighting forces, President Barack Obama said the U.S. and its allies need to examine whether they are deploying military assets effectively against Islamic State militants as Iraq mounts a new offensive to recapture critical territory west of Baghdad.

The White House says it already is responding to demands by Iraqi fighters for more powerful anti-tank weapons to confront armored vehicles that the Islamic State has used as potent and deadly car bombs. But officials stressed the examination did not represent a reassessment of the U.S. military approach to the fight against the militants.

"We continue to have confidence in the strategy," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. "This is not a fight the U.S. is going to fight for the Iraqi people."

The U.S. attention to supplying higher-grade military equipment came after Defense Secretary Ash Carter over the weekend criticized Iraqi forces, saying their men fled the Islamic State advance on Ramadi without fighting back.

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8,000 flee Ramadi after ISIS takeover - Iraqi forces Anbar
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Obama: US must examine how assets are being used in IS fight
An Iraqi government forces member sits in the back of a vehicle in the Jurf al-Sakher area, some 50 kilometres south of Baghdad, to patrol the area from further Islamic State (IS) group advancement, on May 24, 2015. Iraqi forces retook territory from IS group east of Ramadi on May 23, 2015, in their first counterattack since the jihadists' capture of the Anbar provincial capital a week earlier. (Photo credit Haidar Hamdani, AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi government forces keep position in the Jurf al-Sakher area, some 50 kilometres south of Baghdad, to protect the area from further Islamic State (IS) group advancement, on May 24, 2015. Iraqi forces retook territory from IS group east of Ramadi on May 23, 2015, in their first counterattack since the jihadists' capture of the Anbar provincial capital a week earlier. (Photo credit Haidar Hamdani, AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi government forces pose for a picture at a checkpoint in the Jurf al-Sakher area, some 50 kilometres south of Baghdad, to protect the area from further Islamic State (IS) group advancement, on May 24, 2015. Iraqi forces retook territory from IS group east of Ramadi on May 23, 2015, in their first counterattack since the jihadists' capture of the Anbar provincial capital a week earlier. (Photo credit Haidar Hamdani, AFP/Getty Images)
An Iraqi government forces member keeps position in the Jurf al-Sakher area, some 50 kilometres south of Baghdad, to protect the area from further Islamic State (IS) group advancement, on May 24, 2015. Iraqi forces retook territory from IS group east of Ramadi on May 23, 2015, in their first counterattack since the jihadists' capture of the Anbar provincial capital a week earlier. (Photo credit Haidar Hamdani, AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi government forces guard the Jurf al-Sakher area, some 50 kilometres south of Baghdad, to protect the area from further Islamic State (IS) group advancement, on May 24, 2015. Iraqi forces retook territory from IS group east of Ramadi on May 23, 2015, in their first counterattack since the jihadists' capture of the Anbar provincial capital a week earlier. (Photo credit Haidar Hamdani, AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi government forces keep position in the Jurf al-Sakher area, some 50 kilometres south of Baghdad, to protect the area from further Islamic State (IS) group advancement, on May 24, 2015. Iraqi forces retook territory from IS group east of Ramadi on May 23, 2015, in their first counterattack since the jihadists' capture of the Anbar provincial capital a week earlier. (Photo credit Haidar Hamdani, AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi government forces walk next to a trench in the Jurf al-Sakher area, some 50 kilometres south of Baghdad, to protect the area from further Islamic State (IS) group advancement, on May 24, 2015. Iraqi forces retook territory from IS group east of Ramadi on May 23, 2015, in their first counterattack since the jihadists' capture of the Anbar provincial capital a week earlier. (Photo credit Haidar Hamdani, AFP/Getty Images)
Displaced Sunni Iraqis, who fled the violence in the Iraqi city of Ramadi, arrive at the outskirts of Baghdad, on April 19, 2015. More than 90,000 people have fled fighting between pro-government forces and the Islamic State jihadist group in the Ramadi area of Iraq's Anbar province, the United Nations said. (Photo credit Ahmad Al-Rubaye, AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi families, who fled the city of Ramadi after it was seized by Islamic State (IS) group militants, talk to journalists at a camp housing displaced families on May 18, 2015 in Bzeibez, on the southwestern frontier of Baghdad with Anbar province. Shiite militias converged on Ramadi in a bid to recapture it from jihadists who dealt the Iraqi government a stinging blow by overrunning the city in a deadly three-day blitz. (Photo credit Ahmad Al-Rubaye, AFP/Getty Images)
Displaced Sunni Iraqis, who fled the violence in the Iraqi city of Ramadi, arrive at the outskirts of Baghdad, on April 19, 2015. More than 90,000 people have fled fighting between pro-government forces and the Islamic State jihadist group in the Ramadi area of Iraq's Anbar province, the United Nations said. (Photo credit Ahmad Al-Rubaye, AFP/Getty Images)
An Iraqi boy, whose family fled the city of Ramadi after it was seized by Islamic State (IS) group militants, poses inside a tent at a camp housing displaced families on May 18, 2015 in Bzeibez, on the southwestern frontier of Baghdad with Anbar province. Shiite militias converged on Ramadi in a bid to recapture it from jihadists who dealt the Iraqi government a stinging blow by overrunning the city in a deadly three-day blitz. (Photo credit Ahmad Al-Rubaye, AFP/Getty Images)
Thousands of Iraqis fleeing the Iraqi city of Ramadi seized by Daesh militants, cross bridge over Euphrates River to arrive in Baghdad, Iraq on April 17, 2015. Thousands of Iraqis have started to migrate from Ramadi city, where the U.S.-led coalition has intensified its airstrikes against Daesh positions, to Baghdad, said a security official. (Photo by Ali Mohammed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Displaced Iraqis from Ramadi cross the Bzebiz bridge after spending the night walking towards Baghdad, as they flee their hometown, 65 km west of Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, May 16, 2015. Islamic State militants seized the center of Ramadi in western Iraq and raised their black flag over the government compound, local officials said. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)
Civilians flee their hometown of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's Anbar province, 115 kilometers (70 miles) west of Baghdad, Monday, May 18, 2015. Islamic State militants searched door-to-door for policemen and pro-government fighters and threw bodies in the Euphrates River in a bloody purge Monday after capturing the strategic city of Ramadi, their biggest victory since overrunning much of northern and western Iraq last year. (AP Photo)
Iraqi security forces stand guard as residents from the city of Ramadi, who fled their homes on May 16, 2015 as Islamic State (IS) group militants tightened their siege on the last government positions in the capital of Anbar province, a day after they seized the city's government headquarters, wait to cross Bzeibez bridge, on the southwestern frontier of Baghdad with Anbar province, after IS group jihadists took control of all the other routes connecting the province with the Iraqi capital. Taking control of Ramadi would constitute the group's most important victory this year in Iraq, and would give the jihadists control of the capitals of two of its largest provinces. (Photo credit Sabah Arar, AFP/Getty Images)
Residents from the city of Ramadi, who fled their homes on May 16, 2015 as Islamic State (IS) group militants tightened their siege on the last government positions in the capital of Anbar province, a day after they seized the city's government headquarters, walk towards Bzeibez bridge, on the southwestern frontier of Baghdad with Anbar province, after IS group jihadists took control of all the other routes connecting the province with the Iraqi capital. Taking control of Ramadi would constitute the group's most important victory this year in Iraq, and would give the jihadists control of the capitals of two of its largest provinces. (Photo credit Sabah Arar, AFP/Getty Images)
Thousands of Iraqis, fled the Iraqi city of Ramadi seized by Daesh militants, cross bridge over Euphrates River to arrive in Baghdad, Iraq on April 19, 2015. Thousands of Iraqis have started to migrate from Ramadi city, where the U.S.-led coalition has intensified its airstrikes against Daesh positions, to Baghdad, said a security official. (Photo by Visam Avci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Iraqi children, fled the Iraqi city of Ramadi seized by Daesh militants, are carried by trailer after they arrive in Baghdad, Iraq on April 19, 2015. Thousands of Iraqis have started to migrate from Ramadi city, where the U.S.-led coalition has intensified its airstrikes against Daesh positions, to Baghdad, said a security official. (Photo by Visam Avci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Iraqi children, fled the Iraqi city of Ramadi seized by Daesh militants, are carried by trailer as an Iraqi army soldier passes water them after they arrive in Baghdad, Iraq on April 19, 2015. Thousands of Iraqis have started to migrate from Ramadi city, where the U.S.-led coalition has intensified its airstrikes against Daesh positions, to Baghdad, said a security official. (Photo by Visam Avci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
An Iraqi kid cries as he and thousands of Iraqis fleeing the Iraqi city of Ramadi seized by Daesh militants, arrive in Baghdad, Iraq on April 17, 2015. Thousands of Iraqis have started to migrate from Ramadi city, where the U.S.-led coalition has intensified its airstrikes against Daesh positions, to Baghdad, said a security official. (Photo by Ali Mohammed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
An Iraqi woman fleeing the Iraqi city of Ramadi seized by Daesh militants, reacts as she arrives in Baghdad, Iraq on April 17, 2015. Thousands of Iraqis have started to migrate from Ramadi city, where the U.S.-led coalition has intensified its airstrikes against Daesh positions, to Baghdad, said a security official. (Photo by Ali Mohammed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - APRIL 19: Iraqis, fled the Iraqi city of Ramadi seized by Daesh militants, carry their belongings with a trailer after they arrive in Baghdad, Iraq on April 19, 2015. Thousands of Iraqis have started to migrate from Ramadi city, where the U.S.-led coalition has intensified its airstrikes against Daesh positions, to Baghdad, said a security official. (Photo by Visam Avci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Thousands of Iraqis, fled the Iraqi city of Ramadi seized by Daesh militants, cross bridge over Euphrates River to arrive in Baghdad, Iraq on April 19, 2015. Thousands of Iraqis have started to migrate from Ramadi city, where the U.S.-led coalition has intensified its airstrikes against Daesh positions, to Baghdad, said a security official. (Photo by Visam Avci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Civilians flee their hometown of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's Anbar province, 115 kilometers (70 miles) west of Baghdad, Monday, May 18, 2015. Islamic State militants searched door-to-door for policemen and pro-government fighters and threw bodies in the Euphrates River in a bloody purge Monday after capturing the strategic city of Ramadi, their biggest victory since overrunning much of northern and western Iraq last year. (AP Photo)
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - APRIL 17: Iraqi Army members take security measures as thousands of Iraqis fleeing the Iraqi city of Ramadi seized by Daesh militants, arrive in Baghdad, Iraq on April 17, 2015. Thousands of Iraqis have started to migrate from Ramadi city, where the U.S.-led coalition has intensified its airstrikes against Daesh positions, to Baghdad, said a security official. (Photo by Ali Mohammed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Thousands of Iraqis fleeing the Iraqi city of Ramadi seized by Daesh militants, arrive in Baghdad, Iraq on April 17, 2015. Thousands of Iraqis have started to migrate from Ramadi city, where the U.S.-led coalition has intensified its airstrikes against Daesh positions, to Baghdad, said a security official. (Photo by Ali Mohammed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
An Iraqi woman fleeing the Iraqi city of Ramadi seized by Daesh militants, reacts as she arrives in Baghdad, Iraq on April 17, 2015. Thousands of Iraqis have started to migrate from Ramadi city, where the U.S.-led coalition has intensified its airstrikes against Daesh positions, to Baghdad, said a security official. (Photo by Ali Mohammed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Residents from the city of Ramadi, who fled their homes on May 16, 2015 as Islamic State (IS) group militants tightened their siege on the last government positions in the capital of Anbar province, a day after they seized the city's government headquarters, walk towards Bzeibez bridge on the southwestern frontier of Baghdad with Anbar province, after IS group jihadists took control of all the other routes connecting the province with the Iraqi capital. Taking control of Ramadi would constitute the group's most important victory this year in Iraq, and would give the jihadists control of the capitals of two of its largest provinces.(Photo credit Sabah Arar, AFP/Getty Images)
A member of the Iraqi interior ministry's anti-terrorism forces flashes the V-sign as he stands guard on a vehicle outside the Habaniyah military base, near Anbar province's capital Ramadi, on May 8, 2015. More than 1,000 Sunni fighters from Anbar joined Iraq's Popular Mobilisation force on May 8, 2015 as part of government efforts to make the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group a cross-sectarian drive. (Photo credit Ahmad Al-Rubaye, AFP/Getty Images)
Volunteer Shiite fighters who supports the Iraqi government forces in the combat against the Islamic State (IS) group, hold a black Islamist flag allegedly belonging to IS militants in the village of Fadhiliyah, which pro-government forces retook from IS control the previous month, on the road leading to Fallujah, in Iraq's flashpoint Anbar province, southwest of Baghdad, on February 24, 2015. The government forces lost control of parts of Anbar's provincial capital Ramadi and all of Fallujah at the beginning of 2015 to anti-government fighters. (Photo credit Ahmad Al-Rubaye, AFP/Getty Images)
An Islamic State car bomb explodes at the gate of a government building near the provincial governor's compound in Ramadi, Iraq, on Saturday, May 16, 2015, during heavy fighting that saw most of the city fall to the militants. (Stringer/McClatchy DC/TNS via Getty Images)
Displaced civilians from Ramadi receive humanitarian aid from the United Nations in a camp in the town of Amiriyat al-Fallujah, west of Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, May 22, 2015. The United Nations World Food Program said it is rushing food assistance into Anbar to help tens of thousands of residents who have fled Ramadi after it was taken by Islamic State militant group. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)
Displaced civilians from Ramadi receive humanitarian aid from the United Nations in a camp in the town of Amiriyat al-Fallujah, west of Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, May 22, 2015. The United Nations World Food Program said it is rushing food assistance into Anbar to help tens of thousands of residents who have fled Ramadi after it was taken by Islamic State militant group. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)
A women who fled Ramadi holds a child in a camp in the town of Amiriyat al-Fallujah, west of Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, May 22, 2015. The United Nations World Food Program said it is rushing food assistance into Anbar to help tens of thousands of residents who have fled Ramadi after it was taken by Islamic State militant group. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)
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White House spokesman Josh Earnest defended Carter's remarks, saying the Iraqi government acknowledged that the setback in Ramadi was the result of a breakdown in command and planning. Moreover, Earnest said, the Iraqi forces in Ramadi had not benefited from U.S. or allied training.

Obama, speaking at the end of a meeting with visiting NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, did not respond to questions about Carter's comments. But he did say the challenge posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and the turmoil in Libya have forced NATO to look south as well as east in the alliance's mission.

"That means an increase in defense capacity building with other countries like Iraq or (Persian Gulf) countries that are interested in working with us, as well as the African Union," he said. "It also means we have to think about whether we are deploying and arranging our assets effectively to meet that challenge."

Asked to elaborate on the president's comments, Earnest said: "There have been some concerns raised by some fighters that they have not gotten the kind of equipment that they need to fight ISIL."

"The president and the rest of the administration have vowed to work closely with the Iraq government to make sure that this military equipment is getting got where it is needed," he said.

Islamic State advances into Palmyra:
24 PHOTOS
ISIS takes Palmyra, Syria
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Obama: US must examine how assets are being used in IS fight
A general view taken on May 18, 2015 shows the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, a day after Islamic State (IS) group jihadists fired rockets into the city, killing several people. Fierce clashes have rocked Palmyra's outskirts since IS launched an offensive on May 13 to capture the 2,000-year-old world heritage site nicknamed 'the pearl of the desert'. AFP PHOTO /STR (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
In this picture released on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 by the website of Islamic State militants, an Islamic State fighter aims his weapon during a battle against the Syrian government forces on a road between Homs and Palmyra, Syria. Islamic State militants overran the famed archaeological site at Palmyra early on Thursday, just hours after seizing the central Syrian town, activists and officials said, raising concerns the extremists might destroy some of the priceless ruins as they have done in neighboring Iraq. (The website of Islamic State militants via AP)
Map locates Palmyra, Syria.; 1c x 3 inches; 46.5 mm x 76 mm;
Syrians stand and look out on the street of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra on May 18, 2015, a day after Islamic State (IS) group jihadists fired rockets into the city, killing several people. Fierce clashes have rocked Palmyra's outskirts since IS launched an offensive on May 13 to capture the 2,000-year-old world heritage site nicknamed 'the pearl of the desert'. AFP PHOTO /STR (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on March 14, 2014 shows the monumental entrance (R), which was reconstructed after 1963 by Syrian Directorate of Antiquities, of the ancient oasis city of Palmyra, 215 kilometres northeast of Damascus. From the 1st to the 2nd century, the art and architecture of Palmyra, standing at the crossroads of several civilizations, married Graeco-Roman techniques with local traditions and Persian influences. AFP PHOTO/JOSEPH EID (Photo credit should read JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)
This picture released on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 on the website of Islamic State militants, shows black columns of smoke rising through the air during a battle between Islamic State militants and the Syrian government forces on a road between Homs and Palmyra, Syria. Islamic State militants overran the famed archaeological site at Palmyra early on Thursday, just hours after seizing the central Syrian town, activists and officials said, raising concerns the extremists might destroy some of the priceless ruins as they have done in neighboring Iraq. (The website of Islamic State militants via AP)
A general view taken on May 18, 2015 shows the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, a day after Islamic State (IS) group jihadists fired rockets into the city, killing several people. Fierce clashes have rocked Palmyra's outskirts since IS launched an offensive on May 13 to capture the 2,000-year-old world heritage site nicknamed 'the pearl of the desert'. AFP PHOTO /STR (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
In this picture released on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 by the website of Islamic State militants, an Islamic State fighter fires his weapon during a battle against Syrian government forces on a road between Homs and Palmyra, Syria. Islamic State militants overran the famed archaeological site at Palmyra early on Thursday, just hours after seizing the central Syrian town, activists and officials said, raising concerns the extremists might destroy some of the priceless ruins as they have done in neighboring Iraq. (The website of Islamic State militants via AP)
This picture released on Thursday, May 21, 2015 by the website of Islamic State militants, shows damaged Syrian military helicopters at Palmyra air base that was captured by the Islamic State militants after a battle with the Syrian government forces in Palmyra, Syria. Activist and officials say members of the Islamic State group are conducting search operations in the ancient town of Palmyra where they have detained and killed dozens of people. (The website of Islamic State militants via AP)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY SAMMY KETZ A picture taken on March 14, 2014 shows a partial view of the ancient oasis city of Palmyra, 215 kilometres northeast of Damascus. Syria's fabled desert Greco-Roman oasis of Palmyra saw its last tourist in September 2011, six months after the uprising began. Its most recent visitors are violence and looting. AFP PHOTO/JOSEPH EID (Photo credit should read JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)
This picture released on Thursday, May 21, 2015 by the website of Islamic State militants, shows the Tadmur prison in the Syrian town of Palmyra that was captured by the Islamic State militants after a battle with the Syrian government forces, Syria. Activist and officials say members of the Islamic State group are conducting search operations in the ancient town of Palmyra where they have detained and killed dozens of people. (The website of Islamic State militants via AP)
In this picture released on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 by the website of Islamic State militants, Islamic State fighters take cover during a battle against Syrian government forces on a road between Homs and Palmyra, Syria. Islamic State militants overran the famed archaeological site at Palmyra early on Thursday, just hours after seizing the central Syrian town, activists and officials said, raising concerns the extremists might destroy some of the priceless ruins as they have done in neighboring Iraq. (The website of Islamic State militants via AP)
A picture taken on March 14, 2014 shows a partial view of the ancient oasis city of Palmyra, 215 kilometres northeast of Damascus. From the 1st to the 2nd century, the art and architecture of Palmyra, standing at the crossroads of several civilizations, married Graeco-Roman techniques with local traditions and Persian influences. AFP PHOTO/JOSEPH EID (Photo credit should read JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)
This picture released on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 by the website of Islamic State militants, shows a tank with Islamic State group fighters clashing with Syrian government forces on a road between Homs and Palmyra, Syria. Islamic State militants overran the famed archaeological site at Palmyra early on Thursday, just hours after seizing the central Syrian town, activists and officials said, raising concerns the extremists might destroy some of the priceless ruins as they have done in neighboring Iraq. (The website of Islamic State militants via AP)
A general view taken on May 18, 2015 shows the castle of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, a day after Islamic State (IS) group jihadists fired rockets into the city and killing five people. Fierce clashes have rocked Palmyra's outskirts since IS launched an offensive on May 13 to capture the 2,000-year-old world heritage site nicknamed 'the pearl of the desert'. AFP PHOTO /STR (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on March 14, 2014 shows carvings on a wall in the courtyard of the sanctury of Baal in the ancient oasis city of Palmyra, 215 kilometres northeast of Damascus. From the 1st to the 2nd century, the art and architecture of Palmyra, standing at the crossroads of several civilizations, married Graeco-Roman techniques with local traditions and Persian influences. AFP PHOTO/JOSEPH EID (Photo credit should read JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)
FILE - This FILE photo released on Sunday, May 17, 2015, by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows the general view of the ancient Roman city of Palmyra, northeast of Damascus, Syria. Islamic State militants seized parts of the ancient town of Palmyra in central Syria on Wednesday after fierce clashes with government troops, renewing fears the extremist group would destroy the priceless archaeological site if it reaches the ruins. (SANA via AP, File)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY SAMMY KETZ A picture taken on March 14, 2014 shows damage caused by shelling on a wall in the ancient oasis city of Palmyra, 215 kilometres northeast of Damascus. Syria's fabled desert Greco-Roman oasis of Palmyra saw its last tourist in September 2011, six months after the uprising began. Its most recent visitors are violence and looting. AFP PHOTO/JOSEPH EID (Photo credit should read JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on March 14, 2014 shows Syrian citizens walking in the ancient oasis city of Palmyra, 215 kilometres northeast of Damascus. From the 1st to the 2nd century, the art and architecture of Palmyra, standing at the crossroads of several civilizations, married Graeco-Roman techniques with local traditions and Persian influences. AFP PHOTO/JOSEPH EID (Photo credit should read JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)
FILE - This file photo released on Sunday, May 17, 2015, by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows the general view of the ancient Roman city of Palmyra, northeast of Damascus, Syria. Islamic State militants seized parts of the ancient town of Palmyra in central Syria on Wednesday after fierce clashes with government troops, renewing fears the extremist group would destroy the priceless archaeological site if it reaches the ruins. (SANA via AP, File)
This picture released on Thursday, May 21, 2015 by the website of Islamic State militants, shows a bunker with a heavy machine gun mounted on its top at Palmyra air base that was captured by the Islamic State militants after a battle with the Syrian government forces in Palmyra, Syria. Activist and officials say members of the Islamic State group are conducting search operations in the ancient town of Palmyra where they have detained and killed dozens of people. (The website of Islamic State militants via AP)
FILE - This file photo released on Sunday, May 17, 2015, by the Syrian official news agency SANA shows the general view of the ancient Roman city of Palmyra, northeast of Damascus, Syria. Members of the Islamic State group have captured the ancient town raising fears that the extremists will destroy its archaeological sites that have stood for two millennia. Palmyra, home to one of the Middle East's most famous UNESCO world heritage sites, was under full control of militants on Thursday after troops withdrew to nearby bases. (SANA via AP, File)
A picture taken on March 14, 2014 shows a partial view of the theatre at the ancient oasis city of Palmyra, 215 kilometres northeast of Damascus. From the 1st to the 2nd century, the art and architecture of Palmyra, standing at the crossroads of several civilizations, married Graeco-Roman techniques with local traditions and Persian influences. AFP PHOTO/JOSEPH EID (Photo credit should read JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)
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Earnest praised Iraq's announcement that it had launched a major military operation to drive the Islamic State from the western Anbar province. The Iraqi troops are out to retake the Sunni heartland where the extremist group captured the provincial capital of Ramadi.

"I think that is a clear indication of the will of the Iraqi security forces to fight," Earnest said. "And the United States and our coalition partners will stand with them as they do so."

Obama said the upheaval in the Middle East and the "increasingly aggressive posture that Russia has taken" in Ukraine has created a "challenging and important time for NATO." He said NATO would continue to support Ukraine.

Obama said NATO would be a crucial player in providing training and assistance to Afghanistan following the drawdown of NATO troops. He said it was important that NATO countries properly contribute to that post-draw-down mission.
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