Obama to deploy up to 275 military personnel in Iraq

June 16, 2014
President Barack Obama tells Congress the U.S. is deploying up to 275 military personnel to Iraq as support and security for U.S. interests, as militants seize control of the north of the country. (Reuters)

President Obama is sending up to 275 military personnel to Iraq for security and support, the White House said Monday.

Obama notified Congress in a letter Monday that the force will be equipped for combat and will remain in Iraq  "until the security situation becomes such that it is no longer needed."

The forces will provide support and security for U.S. personnel and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. It will help relocate some embassy staff  to consulates in Basra and Irbil and the Iraq Support Unit in Amman, Jordan.

"This action has been directed consistent with my responsibility to protect U.S. citizens both at home and abroad, and in furtherance of U.S. national security and foreign policy interests, pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive," Obama wrote. 

President Obama speaks about the situation in Iraq from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington June 13, 2014. Obama said on Friday he will take several days to review options for how the United States can help Iraq deal with a militant insurgency, saying any action would need significant involvement by Iraq itself. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

The State Department announced Sunday that it is reducing the number of staff at the embassy in Baghdad. It is the first time since 2003 that staff has been drawn down because of violence. Officials said a large number of personnel will stay and the embassy will remain open. The State Department also said Sunday that it plans to increase the number of security personnel at the already heavily fortified embassy. 

The White House said the Iraqi government agreed to let the American military into the country.

A Pentagon spokesman, Rear Adm. John Kirby, said about 170 U.S. personnel started arriving in Baghdad this weekend. He said 100 additional forces have been moved into the region to provide airfield management security and logistics support if they are needed.

Obama, who returned from a trip to California Monday afternoon, later met with his National Security Council to discuss options on Iraq. Attendees included Vice President Biden, Secretary of State John F. Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and  top military officials.  Obama plans to consult with the national security team in the coming days, officials said.

Katie Zezima covers the White House for Post Politics and The Fix.
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