United States/Iraq – President Barack Obama has said he will send about 200 more US troops to Iraq to protect Americans and the US embassy in Baghdad amid fierce fighting in the country between government forces and Sunni armed groups. The US is also sending a detachment of helicopters and drone aircraft. Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said on the 30 Jun 14 about 200 forces arrived in Iraq on the 29 Jun 14 to reinforce security at the US embassy, its support facilities and the Baghdad International Airport. Another 100 personnel were also due to move to Baghdad to "provide security and logistics support." "These forces are separate and apart from the up to 300 personnel the president authorised to establish two joint operations centres and conduct an assessment of how the US can provide additional support to Iraq's security forces," Kirby said in a statement. The announcement will bring to nearly 800 the total number of US forces in and around Iraq to train local forces, secure the embassy and protect Washington's interests. Obama says the troops will stay in Iraq until security improves so that the reinforcements are no longer needed.
United States/Mali – The US could deploy unmanned drones to launch air strikes against al-Qaeda's increasingly powerful offshoot in Mali under plans being considered by the White House it was reported in the British press on the 1 Jul 14. It would be the first known use of the unmanned aircraft in North Africa, where the US is considering how to halt the advance of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). This armed movement, once considered one of the weaker branches of al-Qaeda, seized de facto control over 300,000 square miles of northern Mali earlier this year. The territory dominated by AQIM includes airports, military bases, training facilities and arms dumps. White House officials have met their counterparts from the CIA, the Pentagon and the State Department to discuss how to confront AQIM. The talks began several months ago, but discussions of American drone strikes have become more urgent since AQIM was linked to last month's attack on the US consulate in Benghazi. General Carter Ham, head of the US Africa Command, told the Washington Post there were "no plans for US direct military intervention" but said that America would support counter-terrorism operations by other countries in the region. Tanya Bradsher, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said: "It shouldn't come as a surprise that the White House holds meetings on a variety of subjects, including a number of counter-terrorism issues. The President has been clear about his goal to destroy al-Qaeda's network and we work toward that goal every day."