WASHINGTON, July 3 (Xinhua) -- The United States has sent troops back to Iraq because it is in America's interest for the country to remain stable and to counter Sunni militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, head of U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff said Thursday.
Army Gen. Martin Dempsey told a Pentagon news conference that Iraq's leaders must form an inclusive government that respects the rights of all groups.
Iraq can and should be a U.S. partner in countering terrorism, Dempsey said. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which has captured large sections of the country's north and west over the past few weeks, is a regional threat, but could become a transnational and global threat in the future, Dempsey warned.
There are currently nearly 800 American service members in Iraq, with some protecting the American embassy and other facilities. Other U.S. troops are assessing the situation on the ground and have now opened a second joint operations center in Erbil in northern Iraq after establishing one in Baghdad last month.
Meanwhile, Iraqi security forces have stiffened resistance in the face of the militants' gains.
Iraqi forces would be challenged however, if they went on the offensive against the militants, Dempsey said, adding that the ability of Iraq's military to defend the country depends on political leaders in Baghdad to form a government of national unity.
In addition, what role the United States will play in Iraq going forward, he said, depends on the conclusions of the U.S. military assessment teams, as well as Iraq's political progress.
Currently, U.S. advisors in Iraq are not involved in combat operations, Dempsey said, but he did not rule that out.
"We will match the resources we apply with the authorities and responsibilities that go with them based on the mission we undertake, and that is to be determined," the chairman added.