President Barack Obama said Friday that the U.S. will not send troops back into Iraq to fight against militants who have already captured two cities there and were marching toward Baghdad. He did not rule out taking other military action, however.
“We will not be sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq,” Obama said in a statement at the White House. “But I have asked my national security team to prepare a range of other options that could help support Iraqi security forces and I’ll be reviewing those options in the days ahead.”
The President emphasized that while the U.S. would lend aid, the Iraqi government would ultimately need to take responsibility for resolving sectarian differences.
“Nobody has an interest in seeing terrorists gain a foothold inside of Iraq and nobody is going to benefit from seeing Iraq descend into chaos. The United States will do our part,” he added. “But understand that ultimately it’s up to the Iraqis, as a sovereign nation, to solve their problems.”
Without accommodation among Iraq’s various factions, Obama said, military action by the U.S. or any other nation would not resolve the conflict or ensure stability in the long-term.
“People should not anticipate that this is something that is going to happen overnight,” he added.
But the problem posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the militant group seeping toward Baghdad, goes beyond Iraq’s borders, Obama said.
“But this is a regional problem and it is going to be a long-term problem,” he said. “And what we’re going to have to do is combine selective actions by our military to make sure that we’re going after terrorists who can harm our personnel overseas or eventually hit the homeland. We’re going to have to combine that with what is a very challenging international effort to try to rebuild countries and communities that have been shattered by sectarian war. And that’s not an easy task.”
This post has been updated.