Washington (CNN) - With approval in hand to arm and train Syrian rebels to fight the so-called Islamic State terror group, President Barack Obama said Thursday the plan keeps with "the key principle" of U.S. strategy: No American combat troops on the ground.
"The American troops deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission," he said in televised remarks from the White House.
"Their mission is to advise and assist our partners on the ground. ...We can destroy ISIL without having our troops fight another ground war in the Middle East."
More than 40 countries, including Arab nations, have offered assistance in the battle against Islamic State, known as ISIS or ISIL, the President said.
(CNN) - The Islamic State terror group is now "a credible alternative to al Qaeda" that is "expanding its presence" with foreign fighters returning from Syria, and possibly Iraq, to their home countries, a U.S. intelligence official said Thursday.
The official, who declined to be identified due to the sensitive nature of the information, has direct knowledge of the latest intelligence on the group, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
According to an assessment, the group has grown in size since the spring and its takeover of Mosul in northern Iraq as more fighters from around the world have mainly traveled to Syria to join its ranks.
The United States believes that while the group remains largely focused on its brutal takeover of large areas of Iraq, there is also an "expansion of its external terrorist ambitions."
A new classified intelligence assessment concludes it is more likely than previously thought that Russian forces will enter eastern Ukraine, CNN has learned.
Two administration officials described the assessment but declined to be identified due to the sensitive nature of the information.
The officials emphasized that nothing is certain, but there have been several worrying signs in the past three to four days.
“This has shifted our thinking that the likelihood of a further Russian incursion is more probable than it was previously thought to be,” one official said.
The buildup is seen to be reminiscent of Moscow’s military moves before it went into Chechnya and Georgia in both numbers of units and their capabilities.
U.S. military and intelligence officials have briefed Congress on the assessment.