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US special ops to assess situation in Iraq: Hagel

Last Updated: Friday, June 20, 2014 - 01:40

Washington: US special forces operatives will assess the situation on the ground in Iraq to help evaluate gaps in the Iraqi security forces and increase their capacity to counter the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said today.

"These special operators will assess the situation on the ground, help evaluate gaps in Iraqi security forces, and increase their capacity to counter the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant," Hagel said.

Hagel welcomed the decision of President Barack Obama to deploy US military personnel to advise Iraqi security forces as they battle militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
"However, as the President has repeatedly made clear, Iraq`s problems cannot be resolved through American action alone, or through military force alone.

"The only viable, long-term solution is a political one that brings together the Iraqi people and addresses the legitimate interests and concerns of all of Iraq`s communities. Iraq`s government must summon the courage to unite and lead all of its people," Hagel said. The Department of Defence will continue to plan and prepare further military options should they become necessary, and will remain ready to protect American diplomats, citizens, and its interests in Iraq, he said.

According to a senior administration official, the US now has significantly more intelligence resources. "We also have pre-positioned additional military resources that will enable us to make decisions going forward, both as we develop potential targets and as we determine whether that will be an effective course of action given our belief that the best solution to the security challenges inside of Iraq are capable Iraqi security forces and an inclusive Iraqi government," the official said.

"We would be prepared to do what is necessary if we make a determination that the situation on the ground requires US military action," the official said. Earlier, President Barack Obama announced additional steps that the US will be taking, to include creating joint operation centres in Baghdad and northern Iraq that can facilitate coordination with Iraqi security forces.

Obama said the US can send an additional number of American military advisers, up to 300, who can help provide an additional assessment of how the US can train, advise and support the Iraqi security forces.

According to another senior administration official, in the Central Command area of responsibility there in the Middle East, the US has more than 30,000 troops at sea and ashore, including fixed and rotatory-wing aircraft.

"We have bolstered our presence in the region, and just the last several days, the President and the secretary of defense ordered the aircraft carrier USS George H W Bush into the Arabian Gulf," the official said.

First Published: Friday, June 20, 2014 - 01:40

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