PUBLISHED: 07:43 EST, 16 June 2014 | UPDATED: 00:38 EST, 17 June 2014
President Obama announced on Monday evening that US ground troops 'equipped for combat' are being sent to Iraq – just days after claiming that no American soldiers would be deployed to the war-torn country.
In a letter to Congress, the president said American troops will be returning to Iraq only three years after they left and their deployment began on Sunday.
Obama said that their only purpose will be to protect U.S. personnel and the embassy in Baghdad – and not to join in the fierce fighting raging outside the Iraqi capital.
The president did tell Congress, however, that American military personnel in Baghdad will be 'equipped for combat.'
The president did not give a deadline for the troops exit, only that the 275 soldiers will remain in Iraq for as long as they are needed to protect US interests.
About 160 troops are already in Iraq, including 50 Marines and more than 100 U.S. Army soldiers. Some of those soldiers have only recently arrived.
Under the authorization Obama outlined, a U.S. official says the U.S. will put an additional 100 soldiers in a nearby third country where they would be held in reserve until needed.
The White House says the U.S. military personnel are entering Iraq with its consent.
'The personnel will provide assistance to the Department of State,' White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a statement, 'in connection with the temporary relocation of some staff from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to the U.S. Consulates General in Basra and Erbil and to the Iraq Support Unit in Amman [Jordan].'
'The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad remains open,' Carney added, 'and a substantial majority of the U.S. Embassy presence in Iraq will remain in place and the embassy will be fully equipped to carry out its national security mission.'