U.S. officials are admitting to CNN that they were caught off guard by how quickly the situation in Iraq has spiraled out of control.
Officials told CNN's Kyra Phillips that they were surprised at both the speed of the militants' advance and the fact that Iraqi Security Forces appeared to abandon their units and positions.
Today, militants took over three more towns after clashes with Iraqi forces that lasted several hours. So far the group behind the violence – the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS – has launched massive attacks on four major cities and already controls more than three dozen smaller towns.
President Obama, who oversaw the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq, warned of the consequences of doing nothing, saying the terrorists could eventually threaten U.S. interests.
Another U.S. official tells CNN that the Pentagon is already making arrangements to move the aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush into the Persian Gulf. That would give President Obama the option of possible airstrikes, which the Iraqi government has been asking for.
Arwa Damon is in Irbil, Iraq has the latest from the ground.