Obama: Iraq will need additional US assistance

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Obama: Iraq will need additional US assistance
Iraqi Shiite women hold weapons as they gather to show their willingness to join Iraqi security forces in the fight against Jihadist militants who have taken over several northern Iraqi cities, on June 18, 2014 in the southern Shiite Muslim shrine city of Najaf. Iraq's premier vowed today to 'face terrorism' and insisted security forces had suffered a 'setback' rather than defeat, as militants pressing a major offensive attacked the country's largest oil refinery. AFP PHOTO/HAIDAR HAMDANI (Photo credit should read HAIDAR HAMDANI/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi displaced people, who have fled violence in Iraq's northern Nineveh province, walk past the wreckage of military vehicles upon their arrival in al-Hamdaniyah, 76 kms west of the Kurdish autonomous region's capital Arbil, on June 18, 2014. Saudi Arabia warned of the risks of a civil war in Iraq with unpredictable consequences for the region, after Sunni militants seized large areas from Shiite-led government forces. AFP PHOTO/KARIM SAHIB (Photo credit should read KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi army's newly recruited men gather June 18 2014 in the southern Shiite Muslim shrine city of Najaf following top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's call for Iraqis to take up arms against 'terrorists' who have overrun swathes of the country in a major offensive. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki vowed to 'face terrorism' while insisting Iraqi security forces that wilted under a major militant offensive had suffered a 'setback' but not a defeat. AFP PHOTO/HAIDAR HAMDANI (Photo credit should read HAIDAR HAMDANI/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi special forces keep watch as they secure a district in West Baghdad on June 18, 2014. Saudi Arabia warned today of the risks of a civil war in Iraq with unpredictable consequences for the region, after Sunni militants seized large areas from Shiite-led government forces. AFP PHOTO/SABAH ARAR (Photo credit should read SABAH ARAR/AFP/Getty Images)
PERSIAN GULF - APRIL 4 : A U.S. Marine Harrier jet lands on the flight deck of the U.S.S. Bon Homme Richard April 4, 2003 in the Persian Gulf. Harrier jets from the Bon Homme Richard continue to carry out bombing missions in support of the U.S.-led in Iraq. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
AT SEA - MARCH 25: A Tomahawk cruise missile flies toward Iraq after being launched from the AEGIS guided missile cruiser USS San Jacinto March 25, 2003 in the Red Sea. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
KIRKUK, IRAQ - JUNE 12: Kurdish Peshmerga forces and Iraqi special forces deploy their troops outside of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, Iraq on June 12, 2014. The hardline militant group, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), have taken control of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Tuesday, headed south and attacked parts of the city of Kirkuk and Tikrit on Wednesday. (Photo by Feriq Ferec/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
KIRKUK, IRAQ - JUNE 12: Kurdish Peshmerga forces and Iraqi special forces deploy their troops outside of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, Iraq on June 12, 2014. The hardline militant group, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), have taken control of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Tuesday, headed south and attacked parts of the city of Kirkuk and Tikrit on Wednesday. (Photo by Feriq Ferec/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
KIRKUK, IRAQ - JUNE 12: Kurdish Peshmerga forces and Iraqi special forces deploy their troops and armoured vehicles outside of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, Iraq on June 12, 2014. The hardline militant group, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), have taken control of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Tuesday, headed south and attacked parts of the city of Kirkuk and Tikrit on Wednesday. (Photo by Feriq Ferec/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
KIRKUK, IRAQ - JUNE 12: Kurdish Peshmerga forces and Iraqi special forces deploy their troops outside of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, Iraq on June 12, 2014. The hardline militant group, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), have taken control of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Tuesday, headed south and attacked parts of the city of Kirkuk and Tikrit on Wednesday. (Photo by Feriq Ferec/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MOSUL, IRAQ - JUNE 12: Peshmargas of Iraq Kurdistan Regional Government patrol on the region to prevent infiltration of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant militants who seized Mosul, in Iraq on 12 June, 2014. (Photo by Onur Coban/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Kurdish Iraqi Peshmerga forces deploy their troops and armoured vehicles on the outskirts of the multi-ethnic city of Kirkuk, only 1 kilometre away from areas controlled by Sunni Muslim Jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on the main road between Kirkuk, Mosul and Baiji in northern Iraq on June 12, 2014. With ISIL's Islamist fighters closing in on the Iraqi capital Baghdad, forces from Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region took control of disputed northern oil hub of Kirkuk to protect it from Islamist attack, officials said. AFP PHOTO/MARWAN IBRAHIM (Photo credit should read MARWAN IBRAHIM/AFP/Getty Images)
An Iraqi Kurdish security guard (Peshmerger) stands guard as Iraqi families fleeing violence in the northern Nineveh province gather at a Kurdish checkpoint in Aski kalak, 40 kms West of Arbil, in the autonomous Kurdistan region, on June 11, 2014. Since the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) began their spectacular assault in Mosul late on June 9, militants have captured a large swathe of northern and north-central Iraq, prompting as many as half a million people to flee their homes. AFP PHOTO/SAFIN HAMED (Photo credit should read SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi families fleeing violence in the northern Nineveh province gather at a Kurdish checkpoint in Aski kalak, 40 kms West of Arbil, in the autonomous Kurdistan region, on June 11, 2014. Since the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant began their spectacular assault in Mosul late on June 9, militants have captured a large swathe of northern and north-central Iraq, prompting as many as half a million people to flee their homes. AFP PHOTO/SAFIN HAMED (Photo credit should read SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images)
An Iraqi Kurdish security guard (Peshmerger) stands guard as Iraqi families fleeing violence in the northern Nineveh province gather at a Kurdish checkpoint in Aski kalak, 40 kms West of Arbil, in the autonomous Kurdistan region, on June 11, 2014. Since the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) began their spectacular assault in Mosul late on June 9, militants have captured a large swathe of northern and north-central Iraq, prompting as many as half a million people to flee their homes. AFP PHOTO/SAFIN HAMED (Photo credit should read SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi military personnel in civilian clothes ride in the back of a truck as they flee from the northern city of Kirkuk, on June 11, 2014. Jihadists militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) executed 15 Iraqi security personnel in areas of Kirkuk province that the militants seized a day before, a senior police officer and local officials said. The Jihadists overran Iraq's second city of Mosul, the surrounding Nineveh province and parts of Kirkuk, in a major blow on June 10, that Washington warned threatens the entire region. AFP PHOTO/MARWAN IBRAHIM (Photo credit should read MARWAN IBRAHIM/AFP/Getty Images)
JOINT BASE ANDREWS, MD - DECEMBER 20: U.S. President Barack Obama (L) shakes hands with an Air Force soldier during a ceremony to mark the return of the United States Forces-Iraq and the end of the Iraq war on December 20, 2011 at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. The last U.S. troops left Iraq on December 18, 2011 ending the was after nearly nine years. (Photo by Kristoffer Tripplaar-Pool/Getty Images)
ROCK HILL, SC - DECEMBER 14: U.S. President Barack Obama speaks as first lady Michelle Obama listens during a tribute to the troops on December 14, 2011 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The U.S. is ending its war in Iraq and all U.S. troops are scheduled to be out of Iraq by December 31. (Photo by Davis Turner/Getty Images)
ROCK HILL, SC - DECEMBER 14: First lady Michelle Obama (R) speaks as U.S. President Barack Obama listens during a tribute to the troops on December 14, 2011 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The U.S. is ending its war in Iraq and all U.S. troops are scheduled to be out of Iraq by December 31. (Photo by Davis Turner/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama shakes hands with Iraq war veterans on August 31, 2010 at Fort Bliss, Texas. Obama is to address Americans from the Oval Office in a televised speech at 8:00 pm (midnight GMT), after travelling to the military base in Texas to meet with soldiers recently returned from Iraq. AFP PHOTO / TIM SLOAN (Photo credit should read TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama shakes hands with Iraq war veterans on August 31, 2010 at Fort Bliss, Texas. Obama is to address Americans from the Oval Office in a televised speech at 8:00 pm (midnight GMT), after travelling to the military base in Texas to meet with soldiers recently returned from Iraq. AFP PHOTO / TIM SLOAN (Photo credit should read TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)
JOINT BASE ANDREWS, MD - DECEMBER 20: U.S. President Barack Obama (7th L) and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (5th L) greet troops during a ceremony to mark the return of the United States Forces-Iraq Colors and the end of the Iraq war on December 20, 2011 at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. The last U.S. troops left Iraq on December 18, 2011 ending the was after nearly nine years. (Photo by Kristoffer Tripplaar-Pool/Getty Images)
First Lady Michelle Obama (C) is hugged by US President Barack Obama as they deliver remarks to troops and military families at Fort Bragg, NC, December 14, 2011. Obama on Wednesday marked the US exit from Iraq by eulogizing fallen troops and seek to move Americans on from a divisive near nine-year war which he opposed. AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/GettyImages)
US President Barack Obama shakes hands with General Lloyd James Austin, the last commanding general of US forces in Iraq, while greting returning troops with US Vice President Joe Biden (R) before attending a ceremony to mark the return of the US Forces - Iraq colors December 20, 2011 at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. The event marks the end of the Iraq war after the last US combat troops rolled out of Iraq into Kuwait on December 18. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
KIRKUK, IRAQ - JUNE 13: Kurdish Peshmerga forces seize the control of Kirkuk where Iraqi army forces and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) had clashes, and Iraqi forces abandoned the city after these clashes, in Iraq, on June 13, 2014. Peshmerga forces, took the control of North Refineries and provided the security of the area, fight against the ISIL members in some part of the city. (Photo by Mustafa Kerim/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
KIRKUK, IRAQ - JUNE 13: Kurdish Peshmerga forces seize the control of Kirkuk where Iraqi army forces and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) had clashes, and Iraqi forces abandoned the city after these clashes, in Iraq, on June 13, 2014. Peshmerga forces, took the control of North Refineries and provided the security of the area, fight against the ISIL members in some part of the city. (Photo by Mustafa Kerim/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Iraqi army troops chant slogans against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as they recruit volunteers to join the fight against a major offensive by the jihadist group in northern Iraq, outside a recruiting centre in the capital Baghdad on June 13, 2014. Iraqi forces clashed with militants advancing on the city of Baquba, just 60 kilometres (40 miles) north of Baghdad, as an offensive spearheaded by jihadists drew closer to the capital. AFP PHOTO / ALI AL-SAADI (Photo credit should read ALI AL-SAADI/AFP/Getty Images)
ARBIL, IRAQ: People, fled Mosul seized by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) after the clashes between Iraqi security forces and ISIL, start to live in Hazer camp built at the borderline of Mosul by United Nations and Kurdish Regional Government, on June 12, 2014 in Arbil, Iraq. Kurdish Peshmerga forces and Iraqi special forces stand guard at checkpoints around the camp. (Photo by Ferhat Demircan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
KIRKUK, IRAQ - JUNE 12: Sheikh Jaafar Mustafa (L), the Kurdish Regional Government's Minister responsible for the Peshmerga, visits Kurdish Peshmerga forces and Iraqi special forces deployedoutside of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, Iraq on June 12, 2014. The hardline militant group, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), have taken control of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Tuesday, headed south and attacked parts of the city of Kirkuk and Tikrit on Wednesday. (Photo by Feriq Ferec/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
KIRKUK, IRAQ - JUNE 12: Kurdish Peshmerga forces and Iraqi special forces deploy their troops and armoured vehicles outside of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, Iraq on June 12, 2014. The hardline militant group, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), have taken control of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Tuesday, headed south and attacked parts of the city of Kirkuk and Tikrit on Wednesday. (Photo by Feriq Ferec/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
KIRKUK, IRAQ - JUNE 12: It announced that many abandoned military vehicles are seen at the road as militants of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) seize the 12th division command and the commander and soldiers leave the military quarters, in Kirkuk, Iraq, on June 12, 2014. (Photo by Aram Kerkuki/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MOSUL, IRAQ - JUNE 13: Assyrian Christian nuns flee Mosul to the safe zones near Arbil city, due to the clashes between Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) members and Iraqi security forces, in Mosul, Iraq on June 13, 2014. People are placed to the camps built by United Nations and Kurdish Regional Government near Arbil. (Photo by Onur Coban/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Iraqi children are given bags of bread at a temporary camp set up to shelter Iraqis fleeing violence in the country's northern Nineveh province on June 12, 2014, in Aski kalak, 40 kms West of Arbil, in the autonomous Kurdistan region. Thousands of people who fled Iraq's second city of Mosul after it was overrun by jihadists wait in the blistering heat, hoping to enter the safety of the nearby Kurdish region and furious at Baghdad's failure to help them. As many as half a million people are thought to have fled Mosul, which was captured by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on June 10, after a spectacular assault that routed the army. AFP PHOTO/SAFIN HAMED (Photo credit should read SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi children are given food at a temporary camp set up to shelter Iraqis fleeing violence in Iraq's northern Nineveh province on June 12, 2014, in Aski kalak, 40 kms West of Arbil, in the autonomous Kurdistan region. Thousands of people who fled Iraq's second city of Mosul after it was overrun by jihadists wait in the blistering heat, hoping to enter the safety of the nearby Kurdish region and furious at Baghdad's failure to help them. As many as half a million people are thought to have fled Mosul, which was captured by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on June 10, after a spectacular assault that routed the army. AFP PHOTO/SAFIN HAMED (Photo credit should read SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images)
ARBIL, IRAQ: People, fled Mosul seized by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) after the clashes between Iraqi security forces and ISIL, start to live in Hazer camp built at the borderline of Mosul by United Nations and Kurdish Regional Government, on June 12, 2014 in Arbil, Iraq. A tearful woman is seen at the camp. (Photo by Ferhat Demircan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ARBIL, IRAQ: People, fled Mosul seized by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) after the clashes between Iraqi security forces and ISIL, start to live in Hazer camp built at the borderline of Mosul by United Nations and Kurdish Regional Government, on June 12, 2014 in Arbil, Iraq. (Photo by Ferhat Demircan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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By JULIE PACE

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama promised Thursday to send more military aid to Iraq to help beat back a fast-moving insurgency as the U.S. evacuated a major air base in the nation's north where it had been training Iraqi security forces.

Obama did not say what kind of new assistance would be given to Baghdad. But two U.S. officials who are familiar with ongoing negotiations said the White House is considering air strikes and increased surveillance, requested this week by the Iraqi defense minister, as the insurgency nears Baghdad.

The officials were not authorized to discuss the matter by name and spoke only on condition of anonymity.

The Iraqi government has been asking for more than a year for surveillance and armed drones to combat a Sunni insurgency that has gained strength from battlefield successes in neighboring Syria.

"What we've seen over the last couple of days indicates the degree to which Iraq is going to need more help," Obama said. "It's going to need more help from us, and it's going to need more help from the international community."

He added: "We do have a stake in making sure that these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold in either Iraq, or Syria for that matter."

The president commented to reporters during an Oval Office meeting with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Obama said he had not ruled out any options. But press secretary Jay Carney said the U.S. was not considering military "boots on the ground," and State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the administration was not contemplating sending troops back to Iraq after leaving in 2011 at the end of an eight-year war.

Several thousand Americans remain in Iraq, mostly contractors who work at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on programs to train Iraqi forces on American military equipment like fighter jets and tanks. One of the largest training missions was based at an air base in the city of Balad, about an hour northwest of Baghdad, where three planeloads of Americans were being evacuated on Thursday. They included 12 U.S. government officials and military personnel who have been training Iraqi forces to use fighter jets and surveillance drones.

The evacuation means that the program at Balad has been suspended indefinitely. Other U.S. contractors are at a tank training ground in the city of Taji, just north of the capital, that is still in operation for now.

In addition to the possible military assistance, Psaki said the U.S. is sending about $12 million in humanitarian aid to help nearly a million Iraqis who have been forced from their homes by recent fighting in the nation's north and west.

Iraq has been beset by resurgent violence since the last American troops withdrew after more than eight years of war. The violence escalated this week with an al-Qaida-inspired group capturing two key Sunni-dominated cities and talking of a march on Baghdad.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other Iraqi leaders have pleaded with the Obama administration for more than a year for additional help to combat the insurgency, which has been fueled by the unrelenting civil war in neighboring Syria. Northern Iraq has become a way station for insurgents who routinely travel between the two countries and are seeding the Syrian war's violence in Iraq and beyond.

At the Capitol on Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner said Obama's policies in Iraq were jeopardizing the progress the United States made in years of fighting. He noted that terrorists have been capturing territory, including the cities of Mosul and Tikrit, the home of the late dictator Saddam Hussein.

"They're 100 miles from Baghdad," Boehner said. "And what's the president doing? Taking a nap."

The president said he was watching the situation in with concern and his team was working around the clock to identify the most effective assistance. He said that while short-term military solutions were required to tamp down the growing insurgency, Iraq also needed to make longer-term political changes.

If Obama orders US military strikes or involves American forces, he would face opposition in the House. Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, asked, "Where are they going to get the funds?"

"To just go in and burn up more resources on a place that seems bent on destruction," McKeon told reporters. "We had an opportunity there. They had an opportunity there. We blew it. They blew it. I don't think we're ready to go in another one."

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Associated Press writers Nedra Pickler, Bradley Klapper and Donna Cassata contributed to this report.


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