Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (L) and Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff, hold a press briefing at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia on September 18, 2013. (UPI/Kevin Dietsch) | License Photo
BAGHDAD, June 18 (UPI) -- The Iraqi government has requested U.S. assistance to launch airstrikes against Islamist militants who are fighting for control of key Iraqi cities.
"We have a request from the Iraqi government for air power," U.S. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, acknowledged at a Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee hearing on Wednesday.
The president, both the White House and Pentagon have noted, continues to consider how to respond to the deteriorating security situation in Iraq.
White House press secretary Jay Carney, speaking aboard Air Force One on Tuesday, underlined that the crisis goes beyond immediate military needs:
"It is evident, of course, that Iraq needs significantly more help to break the momentum of extremist groups and to bolster the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces.
"But there is no military solution that will solve Iraq's problems ...
"... the President is also making clear that the medium- and long-term challenges that Iraq faces cannot be solved militarily, they must be solved through actions taken by Iraq's leaders to govern inclusively so that it is abundantly clear to Iraq's citizens that extremist groups like ISIL do not have their interests at heart, that their actions have virtually nothing to do with domestic Iraqi politics, but have only to do with advancing a brutal extremist ideology in their country."
Meanwhile, the U.S. has pre-positioned a fleet of warships -- including an aircraft carrier and an amphibious transport dock ship -- in the Persian Gulf. Their presence, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said, "provides the commander in chief additional options to protect American citizens and interests in Iraq, should he choose to use them."
There is no official response yet from the White House or Pentagon regarding Iraq's request for air support, and no additional specifics regarding Iraq's request for air power.