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  • 13 June 2014, 22:40

Iraq: Obama Rules Out Sending US Ground Troops

US President Barack Obama has ruled out sending American troops back to Iraq to help repel Islamist rebels advancing in the strife-torn country.

As insurgents edged closer to the capital Baghdad, Mr Obama said from the White House that unless Iraq deals with its internal problems, short-term US military action would not be much help.

"We will not be sending US troops back into combat in Iraq, but I have asked my national security team to prepare a range of other options that could help support Iraqi security forces," he said on Friday.

He said he would make a decision "in the days ahead" on the options, amid reports the Pentagon is drafting plans for possible air strikes against the Islamist rebels.

"The United States will do our part, but ultimately it's up to the Iraqis as a sovereign nation to solve their problems," Mr Obama said from the South Lawn. 

"We can't do it for them," he added.

The president then set off on a four-day trip to North Dakota and California.

Several divisions of the Iraqi army - trained and equipped by the US - melted away this week before a lightning advance by insurgents from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Republican Senator John McCain said on MSNBC on Friday morning: "We are now facing an existential threat to the security of the United States of America."

He said Mr Obama was to blame for the chaos because he did not secure agreement for a residual US force to remain in Iraq when "we had the conflict won".

Republican House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard 'Buck' McKeon said in a statement: "The White House has a history of 'considering all options' while choosing none. 

"There are no quick fix solutions to this crisis and I will not support a one-shot strike that looks good for the cameras but has no enduring effect."

Republican House Speaker John Boehner said on Thursday the president was "taking a nap" while the rebels ran amok.

The Iraqi government has been asking for over a year for more US help to combat the insurgency, which has been fanned by the civil war in neighbouring Syria. 

US officials have said Iraqi leaders made a fresh request this week for drones and manned aircraft.

The US is already understood to be flying drones over Iraq for intelligence purposes.

On Friday, two Navy destroyers equipped with Tomahawk missiles were in the Gulf, while the aircraft carrier USS George H W Bush and a Navy cruiser were in the northern Arabian Sea.

Three planeloads of Americans, mostly contractors and other civilians, have already been evacuated from a major Iraqi air base in Sunni territory north of Baghdad.

 

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