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President Obama / Associated Press

President Obama said Thursday that Iraq needs "more help" as it battles insurgents threatening to attack Baghdad, and he is considering various options.

"I don't rule out anything because we do have a stake in making sure that these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold in either Iraq or Syria for that matter," Obama said in the Oval Office.

Options include drones and airstrikes but not the reinsertion of U.S. ground troops into Iraq.

Obama said, "There will be some short-term immediate things that need to be done militarily, and our national security team is looking into all the options." He didn't provide details.

A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity about internal deliberations, said Obama is not ruling out the use of drones and airstrikes, but the United States is not considering "boots on the ground" in Iraq. White House spokesman Jay Carney said, "We are not contemplating ground troops" in Iraq.

After a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Obama said, "In the short term, we have to deal with what is clearly an emergency situation in Iraq."

Obama said his team has consulted with Iraq's government, and the United States has provided help in past months, including military equipment and intelligence.

"What we've seen over the last couple of days indicates the degree to which Iraq is going to need more help," Obama said. "It's going to need more help from us, and it's going to need more help from the international community."

An al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic insurgent group has taken major cities in Iraq and vowed to march on the capital, Baghdad. Obama said, "This is an area that we've been watching with a lot of concern, not just over the last couple of days but over the last several months."

Congressional Republicans criticized the Obama administration as al-Qaeda-inspired insurgents marched across Iraq.

"They're 100 miles from Baghdad," said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. "And what's the president doing? Taking a nap."

The White House said that Vice President Biden spoke by phone Thursday with Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, pledging "solidarity" in its fight against the insurgent group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Biden said the U.S. is prepared to "intensify and accelerate security support and cooperation with Iraq," said a White House statement, but also told Maliki that the different factions in Iraq must "reach a lasting political accommodation and to be united in order to defeat their common enemy."



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