Obama sends 275 U.S. military personnel to Iraq

Move comes as ISIS militants battle Iraqi security forces for control of a strategic northern town

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About 275 U.S. military personnel are being deployed to Iraq to help American personnel and protect the embassy in Baghdad, President Barack Obama said Monday in a letter to Congressional leaders.

The force, which began deploying on Sunday, has been sent “for the purpose of protecting U.S. citizens and property, if necessary, and is equipped for combat,” Obama wrote.

“This force will remain in Iraq until the security situation becomes such that it is no longer needed.”

The move comes as jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) battle Iraqi security forces for control of a strategic northern town and Washington weighs possible drone strikes against the militants.

The ISIS fighters have taken control of a swath of territory north of Baghdad in a drive towards the Iraqi capital launched a week ago.

The White House said in a statement that the U.S. military personnel would help the State Department relocate some embassy staff from Baghdad to the consulates in Arbil and Basra, as well as Amman.

It added that the embassy remained open, and that most personnel were to remain in place in Baghdad.

The troops were entering Iraq with the consent of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government, the statement said.

Meanwhile, the militant offensive that has overrun swathes of Iraq is “life-threatening” and is the biggest threat to its sovereignty in many years, the U.N. envoy to Baghdad told AFP.

“Right now, it’s life-threatening for Iraq but it poses a serious danger to the region,” Nickolay Mladenov said in an interview on Monday.

“Therefore, there needs to be a realization in the region. The Iraq crisis must be solved by the Iraqis but they cannot do that without the international community and the constructive cooperation of the region.”

He added that “Iraq faces the biggest threat to its sovereignty and territorial integrity” in years.

Also expressing alarm, BP chief executive Bob Dudley said Tuesday that risks of disruption to Iraq’s oil output will remain limited despite the worsening crisis in the country.