[guest post by Dana]
President Obama notified Congress on Monday that he was sending up to 275 U.S. military personnel “to provide support and security for U.S. personnel and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.”
Obama also is considering sending 100 or fewer special operations troops to Iraq to advise its armed forces as it battles Sunni Muslim insurgents, according to a senior U.S. official. It was unclear whether they would be among the 275 military personnel or in addition to them.
A U.S. special operations team would operate under the ambassador in Baghdad and would be barred from engaging in ground combat, the senior U.S. official said. If approved, their mission would include coordinating U.S. airstrikes on insurgent positions, sharing intelligence with Iraqi security forces and giving Iraqi commanders tactical advice, the official said.
Lest you think the president is backpedaling on last week’s reassurance:
We will not be sending U.S. 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, and I’ll be reviewing those options in the days ahead.
White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said that American troops would not be involved in ground combat, however they might go back as advisors.
“The president was very clear that we will not be sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq,” she said in a statement. “That remains the case and he has asked his national security team to prepare a range of other options that could help support Iraqi security forces.”
UPDATE: Here is the full statement released by the White House:
Today, consistent with the War Powers Resolution, the President transmitted a report notifying the Congress that up to approximately 275 U.S. military personnel are deploying to Iraq to provide support and security for U.S. personnel and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. The personnel will provide assistance to the Department of State in connection with the temporary relocation of some staff from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to the U.S. Consulates General in Basra and Erbil and to the Iraq Support Unit in Amman. These U.S. military personnel are entering Iraq with the consent of the Government of Iraq. The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad remains open, and a substantial majority of the U.S. Embassy presence in Iraq will remain in place and the embassy will be fully equipped to carry out its national security mission.
Also, Secretary of State John Kerry was interviewed today. In part, he was asked about the safety of personnel at the embassy in Iraq:
QUESTION: Again, a more immediate concern: What about the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad? There are reports that some personnel from that Embassy have been moved. How many are still there, and how are they being protected, and how concerned are you?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I’m absolutely convinced that we have the security we need for our Embassy. We watch this every single day. We have had any number of meetings to make evaluations. We don’t discuss the numbers of people, but suffice it to say that there are a large number of contractors who have been doing various things around the country and because of the situation around the country, but clearly they’re not able to be out there safely at this point in time. So we think it is advisable to reduce those numbers, but we’re not doing so with respect to our diplomatic presence or our ability to be able to interact with the Government of Iraq. We’re really quite convinced that we have a security situation that will protect the interests of the United States and our citizens.
Reminder – this is what the president said today:
[A]pproximately 275 U.S. military personnel are deploying to Iraq to provide support and security for U.S. personnel and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.