Obama: US will send fresh help to beleaguered Iraq

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is weighing a range of short-term military options, including airstrikes, to quell an al-Qaida inspired insurgency that has captured two Iraqi cities and threatened to press toward Baghdad.

Speaking in the Oval Office, the president said: “We do have a stake in making sure that these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold.”

However, officials are firmly ruling out putting American troops back on the ground in Iraq, which has faced resurgent violence since the U.S. military withdrew in late 2011. A sharp burst of violence this week led to the evacuation of Americans from a major air base in northern Iraq where the U.S. had been training security forces.

Nearly all American troops left Iraq in December 2011 after Washington and Baghdad failed to negotiate a security agreement that would have kept a limited number of U.S. forces in the country for a few more years at least.

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174-a-12-(President Barack Obama, during photo op with Australia’s prime minister)-“Iraq or Syria”-President Obama says the U.S. must help Iraq push back the insurgents. (12 Jun 2014)

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173-a-12-(President Barack Obama, during photo op with Australia’s prime minister)-“component to this”-President Obama says his administration is deciding what kind of help to provide Iraq. (12 Jun 2014)

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172-a-15-(President Barack Obama, during photo op with Austrailia’s prime minister)-“rule out anything”-President Obama says his administration will provide Iraq with more help to fight the insurgency.((longer version of cut in wrap)) (12 Jun 2014)

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APPHOTO DCPM110: President Barack Obama answers questions on violence in Iraq during his meeting with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Thursday, June 12, 2014, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. Obama said that Iraq will need additional assistance from the U.S. to push back an Islamic insurgency. The president did not specify in a brief question-and-answer session what type of assistance he is willing to provide. But Obama did say the White House has not ruled anything out. He said he is watching the situation in Iraq with concern and wants to ensure that jihadists don’t get a foothold. Iraq has been beset by violence since the last American forces withdrew in late 2011. The violence escalated this week with an al-Qaida-inspired group capturing two key Sunni-dominated cities this week and vowing to march on to Baghdad. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) (12 Jun 2014)

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