By Kate Tummarello - 06/14/14 01:05 PM EDT
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is bringing U.S. military forces closer to Iraq as anti-government insurgents gain ground in the fight against Iraqi troops.
On Saturday, Hagel ordered aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush to be moved into the Persian Gulf, bringing it closer to Iraq, Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement.
The spokesman said the aircraft carrier, currently located in the North Arabian Sea, is being accompanied by a guided-missile cruiser and a guided-missile destroyer and is expected to reach its destination “later this evening.”
The navy’s movement comes as militants led by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria attack Iraqi troops.
Those troops were trained by the U.S., prompting some to call on the U.S. to reengage in Iraq.
The presence of the navy vessels “continues to support our longstanding commitments to the security and stability of the region,” the spokesman said.
Obama called National Security Adviser Susan Rice last night and Saturday morning to receive updates on the situation in Iraq, according to a White House pool report. Rice was instructed to keep the president, who is visiting California, updated as his team continues to weigh military options.
In a phone call Saturday with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Secretary of State John Kerry said U.S. assistance would only be successful if "Iraqi leaders were willing to put aside differences and implement a coordinated and effective approach to forge the national unity necessary to move the country forward and confront the threat of ISIL," according to a statement by the State Department.
Kerry pointed to the importance of the Iraqi government ratifying election results without delay, adhering to its constitutionally mandated timeframe for forming a new government, and respecting the rights of all citizens as it fights against terrorism, the State Department said.
This story was updated at 10:06 p.m.