US in Talks with Iran as Islamist Army Advances
IRBIL, Iraq -- A week after a radical Muslim group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) captured key cities across Iraq, the United States is once again sending troops and warships to the war-torn country.
President Barack Obama told Congress Monday that 275 troops will be deployed to protect staff at the huge American embassy in Baghdad.
While their mission is non-combative, the Pentagon said U.S. soldiers are allowed to defend themselves if they are under attack. Some 170 of those soldiers are already on the ground.
One senior U.S. official said up to 100 Special Forces soldiers could also join them.
In addition, America has a number of military assets in the region, including four warships, a U.S. carrier able to launch 40 fighter jets and two ships that can fire cruise missiles.
The news comes as preparations to house thousands of fleeing Iraqis are underway at a makeshift camp inside Kurdistan.
"This geographical area belongs to the Christians, Yazidis, and Kurds. We are happy that these people have come here. They are welcome, everyone is," village administrator Jamal Shaheen said.
Residents from Mosul and other parts of Iraq are beginning to arrive in the wake of the Islamist onslaught.
"Everybody fled their homes. We were forced out of ours. We couldn't speak and left out of fear because there's death in Mosul," one displaced Iraqi said.
Meanwhile, U.S. and Iranian officials are reportedly holding rare talks about how to stop the insurgents from gaining more ground in Iraq.
A senior military commander of Iran's elite Quds Force is in Baghdad this week.
"I think we are open to any constructive process here that could minimize the violence, hold Iraq together, the integrity of the country, and eliminate the presence of outside terrorist forces that are ripping it apart," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said.
Iraqi government forces are also engaged in the fight, trying to slow the Islamist approach on the capital city. On Tuesday, they launched multiple strikes on terrorist positions some 40 miles from Baghdad.