— -- As many as 275 armed U.S. service members could be positioned in and around Iraq to help secure U.S. assets as President Obama nears a decision on an array of options for combating fast-moving Islamic insurgents, including airstrikes or a contingent of special forces.
Those insurgent fighters today took control of parts of Baquba, just 37 miles from Baghdad, according to BBC News reports.
As the militant group ISIS – the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – continues to fight, young Iraqi men lined the streets, scrambling to find discarded U.S. and Iraqi military gear so they could join the fight to defend Baghdad.
Obama has told Congress he will send about 170 of the troops to the U.S. Embassy to secure the scores of Americans still present there. The $700 million fortress is the size of 80 football fields, built to withstand attacks.
Obama is also considering sending in U.S. Special Forces – 100 in all -- to help advise Iraqi forces. Those forces, some of which might be sent to Kuwait, could be used for airfield management, security and logistics support, officials said.
The White House would not confirm that special operations forces were under consideration. But spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said that while Obama would not send troops back into combat, he “has asked his national security team to prepare a range of other options that could help support Iraqi security forces."
With numerous cities captured, Obama is keeping all options open.
A U.S. warship is now on the move, equipped with five Osprey, the speedy tilt-rotor aircraft, that could be useful during an evacuation.
But if the United States decides to attack, more options are also available. An aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf is capable of launching 40 fighter jets to strike ISIS militants.
Three other ships located nearby are also able to launch cruise missiles.
And the United States is considering a partnership with Iran to push the militants back, a plan that Secretary of State John Kerry says would not involve military coordination.
“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,” he told Katie Couric with Yahoo! News.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.