Gunmen patrol during clashes with Iraqi security forces in Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad, Iraq, Jan. 5, 2014.
AP

John Kerry: No troops on the ground in US aid to Iraq

Updated

Secretary of State John Kerry pledged support to the Iraqi government after al Qaeda-linked militants overtook the city of Fallujah last week, but said the United States will not consider sending troops to the region.

“We will stand with the government of Iraq and with others who will push back against their efforts to destabilize and to bring back, to wreak havoc on the region and on the democratic process that is taking hold in Iraq,” Kerry told reporters Sunday at a press conference in Jerusalem.

Kerry said the U.S. is increasingly concerned by the al Qaeda-affiliated group the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL) who last week gained control of Ramadi and Fallujah, two cities in the Sunni Muslim-dominated Anbar province. Kerry declined to specify how the U.S. plans to aid the Iraqi government, but he ruled out the possibility of sending American troops back to the region.

“We’re not contemplating putting boots on the ground. This is their fight, but we’re going to help them in their fight,” Kerry said.

The two cities now under insurgent control were within the region at the heart of the anti-American rebellion following the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. Fallujah in particular was the site of the two bloodiest battles during the war in Iraq before U.S. troops eventually withdrew in 2011.

U.S. intelligence officials on Friday described the situation as “extremely dire.” The U.S. State Department remains concerned of ISIL’s efforts to gain a foothold in the region that extends across borders into neighboring Syria.

“These are the most dangerous players in that region,” Kerry said, later adding, “This is a fight that is bigger than just Iraq.”

Weekends with Alex Witt, 1/5/14, 1:29 PM ET

Al Qaeda-linked militants gain ground in Iraq

Alex Witt talks to retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey about the U.S. involvement in Iraq and the Al Qaeda-linked fighters that now control Fallujah.

Al Qaeda and Iraq

John Kerry: No troops on the ground in US aid to Iraq

Updated