"Rather than just try to halt ISIL's momentum, we're now in a position to start going on some offense. The airstrikes have been very effective in degrading ISIL's capabilities and slowing the advance that they were making. Now what we need is ground troops, Iraqi ground troops, that can start pushing
them back," Obama told.

"Phase one was getting an Iraqi government that was inclusive and credible -- and we now have done that," Obama said in his first interview after the November 4 mid-term election wherein his Democratic Party was defeated by the Republican party, which now controls both chambers of the US
Congress – Senate and House of Representatives.

"What hasn't changed is our troops are not going to be engaged in combat," he said.

Obama said the additional 1,500 US soldiers will work at four training centers with members of the US-led coalition to train Iraqi soldiers and assist them with the strategy and logistics to fight IS militants on the ground.

"When they begin to go on the offense against ISIS, the US will provide close air support," Obama said.

According to the US President, his commanders have said there will be fewer troops over time, not, less, as coalition members begin to help with the train and assist effort for local forces.

But he did not rule out sending more troops. "You know, as Commander-in-Chief, I'm never going to say never," he said.

Obama, in response to another question, did not confirm or deny if he sent a letter to the Iranian spiritual leader for co-operation in the fight against ISIS.

"I tend not to comment on any communications that I have with various leaders," he told.

Obama said his Administration is still committed to the talks aimed at getting Iran to abandon their nuclear ambitions, calling those negotiations "significant".

Iran, he noted, has so far abided by freezing their nuclear programme.

"The question now is are we going to be able to close this final gap so that they can re-enter the international community, sanctions can be slowly reduced and we have verifiable, lock-tight assurances that they can't develop a nuclear weapon. There's still a big gap. We may not be able to get there," he said.

United States, he said, will not be "connecting in any way" the nuclear talks to the fight against ISIS, which Iran also views as an enemy because it is primarily a Sunni Muslim group.

"There is some de-conflicting, in the sense that since they have some troops or militias they control in and around Baghdad, yeah, we let them know, 'Don't mess with us. We're not here to mess with you. We're focused on our common enemy. But there is no coordination or common battle plan and there will not be," Obama said.

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