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'No plans' to extend airstrikes

August 11, 2014

The Pentagon has said it has no plans to expand airstrikes against the "Islamic State." Though airstrikes have slowed the jihadists' advance on religious minorities, the group has not been badly weakened.

Refugees in Iraq
Image: Reuters

On Monday, the US military announced that the focus of its air campaign against the "Islamic State" (IS) would remain the protection of Washington's own interests and providing humanitarian assistance.

Lieutenant General William Mayville told reporters at the Pentagon that there were no immediate plans to engage in a more offensive strategy against IS.

"There are no plans to expand the current air campaign beyond the current self- defense activities," Mayville told reporters at the Pentagon.

"We are right now gripped by the immediacy of the crisis, and our focus right now is to provide immediate relief to those that are suffering," Mayville said.

President Barack Obama said last week that he had authorized two military air missions in Iraq: the protection of US interests in the Kurdish city of Irbil and the defense and provision of assistance to the Yazidi religious minority in the Sinjar region (pictured).

"We are looking at the effect that we're having on those fixed sites, those ISIL sites laying siege, and we are trying to reduce that threat," Mayville said, using the acronym for IS's former full name, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. "And, for the near term, that's going to be our focus."

Mayville added that airstrikes over the past four daya had done little to seriously damage IS, although they had slowed the group's advance.

"I don't want to say that we have effectively contained or have broken the momentum of the (militants)," Mayville said.

Weapons supplied to Peshmerga

Earlier on Monday, a spokesperson from the US State Department had confirmed that arms and ammunition were being urgently shipped to Iraqi Kurdish forces.

"We're working with the government of Iraq to increasingly and very quickly get urgently needed arms to the Kurds," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told the TV news channel CNN, according to a report by the news agency AFP.

Harf added that the effort had been under way since last week, but did not specify which US agency was leading the charge or give details of the weapons that were sent. Separately, another State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, said the US was working with authorities in Baghdad to speed up deliveries of "badly needed arms" to Kurdish forces in the north.

The Kurdish region's president, Massoud Barzani, had called for support with weapons to help Peshmerga forces in their fight against the IS group.

On Monday, IS fighters were reported to have taken control of the town of Jalawla, northeast of Baghdad, following fighting with Kurdish troops.

European leaders have also recommended that weapons be given to the Iraqi Kurds, with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius calling Monday for a response from the EU to the requests for help. There were similar sentiments from Italy's foreign minister, Federica Mogherini. However, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said the government had a principle of not exporting arms to war or conflict zones. An emergency meeting of ambassadors from the EU's 28 member countries about the security situations in Iraq, Gaza and Ukraine is planned for Tuesday.

IS has taken over large swaths of Iraq and Syria in the past two months, declaring a "caliphate" in the area under its control.

rc/mkg (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)