U.S. President Barack Obama said the fight against militants in Iraq will be a “long-term project,” as he pressed the nation’s leaders to quickly form a more inclusive government critical to its defense.

The advances by Islamic State fighters who have taken over much of northern Iraq have been ’’more rapid’’ than anticipated by intelligence officials and policymakers in the U.S. and Iraq, Obama told reporters today on the White House lawn.

Obama said the U.S. will be prepared to do more against the Sunni Islamist insurgents — short of returning American ground combat forces to Iraq — if political leaders form an inclusive government that can draw support from the nation’s factions, including Sunni and Shiite Arabs and the Kurdish minority in northern Iraq.

“I don’t think we’re going to solve this problem in weeks,” Obama said in his most extensive comments on the U.S. position since authorizing airstrikes and humanitarian aid drops in Iraq on Aug. 6. “This is going to take some time.”

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