Obama weighs options on Iraq

Obama weighs options on Iraq

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the president is considering all options in helping the Iraqi government  confront a terrorist advance toward Baghdad. (Source: FOX) U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the president is considering all options in helping the Iraqi government confront a terrorist advance toward Baghdad. (Source: FOX)

WASHINGTON, DC (FOX) - As extremists in Iraq march towards Baghdad, what are the American military options in Iraq?

The U.S. military is expediting requests from the Iraqi government for American military aid and equipment.

"I know the president of the United States is prepared to make key decisions in short order. As he made clear earlier, options are on the table right now," said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

U.S. military sources confirm Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki made a new request this week for manned and unmanned air support from U.S. warplanes. Pentagon planners are now furiously mapping out military options for the president.

"This is for the Iraqi security forces, and the Iraqi government to deal with," said Rear Adm. John Kirby, press secretary at the Pentagon.

Military critics say after U.S. troops left two years ago, Maliki weakened his own military, many of whom were seen on Thursday laying down their arms.

"He began to systematically purge his military commanders. Battalion brigade division commanders, all of who participated in the success of the surge, fought side by side with Americans. He replaced them with cronies and hacks," said U.S. Army Ret. Gen. Jack Keane.

The Pentagon points to what military assistance the U.S. has already given to the Iraqi government: $15 billion of military hardware since 2005.

"To include Hellfire missiles, Apache helicopter sales moving forward, and I think later this fall, we're due to - we're still on track for the delivery of two F-16s. We're certainly in touch with Iraqi leadership as much as possible here," Kirby said. 

But the U.S. military trainers who were teaching the Iraqi Air Force how to fly those F-16s were evacuated on Thursday from their base in Balad - north of Baghdad.

Congress is now reviewing an additional $1 billion in arms and equipment including 200 Humvees.

And on Monday, U.S. special operators began a month of training for Iraqi special forces in neighboring Jordan.

U.S. consultant David Tafuri, who is on the ground in Irbil in northern Iraq, described the situation facing Baghdad as a powder keg.

"It's hard to imagine that they have enough fighters and enough supplies and weapons to actually take the capital city of Iraq, but there is fear about that as well," he said.

Few in the Pentagon think that U.S. airstrikes will make a difference. And drones can only carry a few hellfire missiles and U.S. fighter planes would require intelligence on the ground.

Again the White House is ruling out putting U.S. boots on the ground.

Copyright 2014 FOX. All rights reserved.

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