David Jackson / USAToday
WASHINGTON -- President Obama said Thursday he is planning to send up to 300 military advisers to Iraq to help retrain Iraqi security forces as they battle an insurgent invasion.
'Armed forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq,' Obama said in a White House announcement.
After a meeting with national security advisers, Obama also announced a series of steps designed to improve intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance of the insurgent army that has taken several Iraqi cities and is threatening the capital in Baghdad.
Some of these moves would require approval from Iraq's government.
Obama also announced that he will dispatch Secretary of State John Kerry to the region for diplomatic efforts that include demands for a more inclusive government in Iraq.
While some allies have called for removal of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Obama told reporters that 'it's not our job to choose Iraq's leaders.'
Obama's comments came after a meeting with his national security team on options that also include the possibility of future air strikes.
In addition to military advisers, Obama said he is planning to create 'joint operation centers' with the Iraqi military to help coordinate plans and designate possible targets among the insurgents.
The president has long vowed not to re-insert combat troops into Iraq. Military advisers would be used to train Iraq's military and help gather intelligence.
Obama said the United States has an interest in preventing civil war in Iraq and making sure the war-torn nation does not become a new haven for terrorists planning to attack the U.S. and its allies.
But the president said that, ultimately, it's up to Iraq to solve its problems, and American assistance will be supportive in nature.
The advisers will not be combat troops, and 'I think we always have to guard against mission creep,' Obama said.
The president's national security meeting came a day after he reviewed the Iraq situation with members of the bipartisan leadership in Congress.
The administration is also making diplomatic moves. It is urging al-Maliki, the Shiite prime minister, to put together a more inclusive new government that involves Sunnis and Kurds.
Obama aides have said they may also approach Iran -- a supporter of al-Maliki's government -- as part of regional diplomacy, but only if Iran can play what Obama called 'a constructive role.'
The Iraqi government has formally requested U.S. air strikes against the invading forces.
Secretary of State Kerry, a participant in Obama's national security meeting, told NBC News that 'what the United States is doing is about Iraq -- it is not about Maliki.'