U.S. President Barack Obama announced this week extra military personnel would be sent to protect U.S. diplomatic facilities after Islamic State terrorists overran vast areas in north Iraq. The move is unlikely a pre-curser to resending massive combat troops, but air raids may be intensified.
The United States aims to keep terrorism in check more than a decade after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, which is why Washington is hitting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in an airpower campaign.
The militants' territorial gains have made Washington worry that its ultimate nightmare could come true -- that the group could eventually carve out a haven in Iraq or Syria and use it as a staging ground for attacks against the U.S., much like al-Qaida did in Afghanistan in the lead-up to the Sept. 11 attacks.
Indeed, the terrorists have already threatened America, saying earlier this month they will "raise the flag of Allah in the White House."
This statement has alarmed many U.S. observers, experts, policy makers and politicians.
For his part, Obama would not be averse to toughening air attacks, and the Congress would likely approve such a move, Republican strategist Ford O'Connell told Xinhua. "Congress is pretty much prepared to authorize him to use more force," O'Connell said.
But the White House faces a dilemma: While Obama is unlikely to deploy U.S. combat troops, the fight against the Islamic State militants cannot be won by airstrikes alone, experts said.