President Obama announced Thursday afternoon that the U.S. will be stepping up its intelligence-gathering and military support to help the Iraqis, but will not employ combat forces outright to deal with the crisis in the country.
However, he said the U.S. "will be prepared to take targeted and precise military action if and when we determine that the situation on the ground requires it."
In the last few weeks, a Sunni militant group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has taken a number of major cities in the northern and western regions of Iraq. The group's military campaign has carried ISIS fighters within striking distance of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, and recent gains in northwest Iraq have brought the group closer to its goal of establishing control over a contiguous area spanning the Iraqi-Syrian border.
"American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq," Obama said, "but we will help Iraqis as they take the fight to terrorists who threaten the Iraqi people, the region, and American interests as well."
President Obama met with congressional leaders Wednesday to discuss options for American assistance in Iraq. In the meeting, the president promised to keep Congress informed as the situation evolves. In a statement after the meeting, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the president "is not currently considering actions that would require congressional approval but was very clear that he would consult with Congress if that changed."