President Barack Obama speaks on the South Lawn of the White House Saturday about the ongoing situation in Iraq before his departure on Marine One for a vacation in Martha's Vineyard. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama on Saturday refused to give a time limit on America's renewed military involvement in Iraq, saying he doesn't think "we are going to solve this problem in weeks" as the country struggles to form a new government.<br />
"I think this is going to take some time," he said at the White House before departing for a vacation on Martha's Vineyard off the Massachusetts coast.<br />
Obama warned Americans that the new campaign to bring security in Iraq requires military and political changes and "is going to be a long-term project."<br />
The president said Iraqi security forces need to revamp to effectively mount an offensive, which requires a government in Baghdad that the Iraqi military and people have confidence in. Obama said Iraq needs a prime minister - an indication that suggests he's written off the legitimacy of the incumbent, Nouri al-Maliki.<br />
Obama said he will not close the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad or the consulate in Irbil, which means American troops and diplomats will remain on the ground. He said he is obligated as commander in chief to protect U.S. personnel wherever and whenever they are threatened.<br />
The president said humanitarian efforts continue to airdrop food and water to persecuted religious minorities stranded on a mountaintop, and he said planning was underway for how to get them down.
A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year's.
House Republican leaders rallied around one of their own, Whip Steve Scalise, on Tuesday after he said he regrets speaking 12 years ago to a white supremacist organization and condemns the views of such groups.
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