Obama authorizes renewed airstrikes in Iraq
The president has also faced persistent calls to take military action in Syria on humanitarian grounds, given that more than 170,000 people have been killed there.
Critics, including some Republicans in Congress, have argued that Obama's cautious approach to Syria has allowed the Islamic State group to flourish there, growing strong enough to move across the border with Iraq and make swift gains.
Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina praised Obama's proposed actions Thursday night but said much more will be necessary.
"This should include the provision of military and other assistance to our Kurdish, Iraqi, and Syrian partners" who are fighting the militants, airstrikes against the militants' leaders and forces and support for Sunni Iraqis who seek to resist the extremists, they said in a statement.
In light of the militants' advances, Obama dispatched about 800 U.S. forces to Iraq earlier this year, with those troops largely split between joint operation centers in Baghdad and Irbil.
More than half are providing security for the embassy and U.S. personnel. American service members also are involved in improving U.S. intelligence, providing security cooperation and conducting assessments of Iraqi capabilities.
Officials said there were no plans to evacuate those Americans from Iraq but that the U.S. was conducting enhanced intelligence flights over Irbil with both manned and unmanned aircrafts in order to monitor the deteriorating conditions.
If the president were to order actual airstrikes in Iraq, it's all but certain he would proceed without formal congressional approval. Lawmakers left town last week for a five-week recess, and there was no sign that Congress was being called back.
However, officials said the White House was in contact throughout Thursday with some lawmakers, including House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Some Republicans have expressly called for the president to take action and have said he doesn't need the approval of lawmakers.
Associated Press writers Josh Lederman and Darlene Superville contributed to this report.