Obama signals 'new phase' against I.S.

Nov 10, 2014, 2:27 AM EST
A photograph taken from Suruc district of Sanliurfa, Turkey, shows smoke rising from the Syrian border town of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) following the US-led coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) targets on November 09, 2014.
AFP/Getty Images

President Barack Obama has said the deployment of 1,500 more US troops to Iraq marks a "new phase" against Islamic State militants. The BBC writes:

He told CBS TV that the new troops, although non-combat advisers, could help Iraq go on the attack against IS. A US-led coalition has been helping Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces with hundreds of air strikes since August.

Iraqi forces have now reportedly seized large parts of Baiji - home to Iraq's biggest oil refinery - from IS. Officials said troops now controlled some 50% of the town, about 200km (130 miles) north of the capital Baghdad.

In his interview with CBS's Face the Nation broadcast, Mr Obama said: "Phase one was getting an Iraqi government that was inclusive and credible - and we now have done that.

"Rather than just try to halt IS's momentum, we're now in a position to start going on some offense," he said. The additional 1,500 troops nearly double the current contingent and are being sent following a request from the Iraqi government. The troops are there to assist and advise the country's army, and are not involved in combat operations.

Egypt's most active militant group, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, has sworn allegiance to Islamic State, the al Qaeda offshoot which has seized territory in Syria and Iraq, according to an audio clip posted on its Twitter account. Reuters writes:

If genuine, the declaration of allegiance would be a boost for Islamic State, showing its widening influence in the region alongside its territorial advances in Iraq and Syria.

The Sinai-based militant group posted the clip, which is 9 minutes and 26 seconds in length, early on Tuesday morning on a Twitter account that calls itself the official mouthpiece of Ansar.

The clip was then carried on a website used by Islamists. Reuters was not immediately able to verify the authenticity of the statement nor contact the group directly for comment.

In the clip, a man identifies himself only as part of the group's "information department". He says the militants had pledged loyalty to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, head of Islamic State, which is now facing U.S.-led air strikes.