President Obama is sending 300 military advisers to Iraq to bolster government security forces and help establish joint operations centers to combat Sunni extremists.
“American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq, but we will help Iraqis as they take the fight to terrorists,” Obama said.
It also highlights the administration’s dependence on the Iraq’s government and military to stop ISIS, which took over the cities of Mosul and Tikrit last week as Iraqi forces folded.
Obama said the terror organization “poses a threat to the Iraqi people, to the region, and to U.S. interests.”
Obama is also dispatching Secretary of State John Kerry to Europe and the Middle East to coordinate a response between allies and neighbors of Iraq, as well as facilitate unity efforts between Iraq's warring factions.
And the president said the U.S. would be “prepared to take targeted and precise military action if and when we determine the situation requires it.”
The administration has accelerated surveillance and intelligence efforts in the country in a bid to better understand the threat posed by ISIS, Obama said.
A senior administration official said the U.S. was now conducting manned and unmanned surveillance flights "around the clock" over key areas under ISIS control.
Democratic leaders have given the White House cover to use the 2002 law authorizing former President George W. Bush to go to war with Iraq as the legal authority for new actions.
The advisers being dispatched are in addition to 275 service members the president has authorized to go to Iraq to secure the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
The special forces will begin deploying in teams of about a dozen each that will be embedded in the higher levels of the Iraqi military, a senior administration official said. The depoyments will begin "very soon," the official said.
Their first goal will be "getting us a better idea of the state, cohesiveness, and capability of the Iraqi security forces," the official said. They will "assess and advise" Iraqis, but also look to "help give us better visibility into that situation on the ground."
Part of their mission will include whether there are "discrete and targeted" military strikes the U.S. could take that would assist the fight against the Sunni extremists. Officials said that type of action would be more possible once the special advisers were able to report back.
—This story was updatd at 3:30 p.m.