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No US combat role in Iraq, Obama says

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American troops are not going to be fighting in Iraq again, Obama said on Thursday. (Source: CNN) American troops are not going to be fighting in Iraq again, Obama said on Thursday. (Source: CNN)
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WASHINGTON, DC (CNN) – On Thursday, President Barack Obama said he is sending military advisers to Iraq.

The president says the move does not mean America is returning to a combat role in the country.

After pulling the U.S. out of Iraq, Obama is putting the nation back in with a modest mission to send up to 300 military advisers to assess the ISIS militant threat.

But this time, the president insisted it will be different.

"I think we always have to guard against mission creep. So, let me repeat what I've said in the past. American combat troops are not going to be fighting in Iraq again," he said Thursday.

To help Iraq combat ISIS militants, senior administration officials said the plan is for several small teams of advisers, about a dozen each, to form joint operations centers with Iraqi forces.

"Discreet and targeted" airstrikes are still possible, officials say, after surveillance flights gather more intelligence.

All in an effort, the president said, to prevent Iraq from becoming a safe haven for terrorists.

"It is in our national security interests not to see an all-out civil war inside of Iraq," he said.

It's a nightmare scenario the president's critics say he should have seen coming when he authorized a complete withdrawal from Iraq in late 2011.

A campaign promise Obama kept despite the risks.

"Well, keep in mind, that wasn't a decision made by me. That was a decision made by the Iraqi government," Obama said on Thursday.

The president maintained U.S. forces would not have had legal protection from Iraqi courts had they stayed.

"The Iraqi government and Prime Minister al-Maliki declined to provide us that immunity," Obama said.

Obama blamed the violence in part on Nuri al-Maliki's failure to unite his country.

But he stopped short of calling for al-Maliki to step down.

"It's not our job to choose Iraq's leaders," Obama said.

The president is not only in a jam in Iraq, where he's trying to avoid another quagmire, while containing a crisis that's spilling across Iraq's borders and that could lead to oil disruptions.

Consider the political pressures back home with Republicans complaining he's too soft.

"Here we are a year and a half later and you look at this presidency and you can't help but get the sense that the wheels are coming off," said U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-OH.

And Democrats worried where the mission goes next.

"If the president is proposing a long-term commitment of military advisors or a more robust presence than just 300 assets on the ground, then I think he needs to come to the Congress for authorization," said U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-CT.

Copyright 2014 CNN. All rights reserved.

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