UK & World News
US Military: Airstrikes 'Won't Stop ISIS'
Islamic militants fighting in northern Iraq are unlikely to be stopped by targeted airstrikes, a US general has warned.
Joint staff operations director Lieutenant General William Mayville told a news conference that 15 airstrikes on Islamic State (IS) positions were focused initially on protecting US facilities and citizens, as well as aiding the humanitarian mission.
He said: "These airstrikes have helped check the advance of missile forces around Mount Sinjar and in the area west of Irbil.
"US airstrikes are also providing the Kurdish security forces with time to fortify their defensive positions with the supplies they are receiving from the central government of Baghdad.
"We assess that US airstrikes in northern Iraq have slowed IS operational tempo and temporarily disrupted their advances toward the province of Irbil.
"However, these strikes are unlikely to affect IS's overall capabilities or its operations in other areas of Iraq and Syria.
"IS remains focused on securing and gaining additional territory through Iraq and will sustain its attacks against Iraqi and Kurdish security forces and their positions as well as targeting Yazidis, Christians and other minorities."
It comes after Iraq's new prime minister called on the country to unite against the "barbaric" Islamist insurgency.
The National Alliance chose Haider al Abadi as the man to unite the country after Nouri al Maliki was criticised for deepening sectarian divisions and steering the country towards all-out civil war.
Speaking on state television, the new PM said: "We all have to co-operate to stand against this terrorist campaign launched on Iraq and to stop all terrorist groups."
But Mr al Maliki - ousted after eight years as PM - has indicated he will not just stand aside, with a member of his political block warning "we will not stay silent" over the nomination of his rival.
US President Barack Obama urged Mr al Abadi to form a new government as quickly as possible and said the only lasting solution for Iraq involved an inclusive government.
Islamist extremists have been forced out of Makhmour and al Gweir by Kurdish forces, while thousands of Yazidis stranded on Mount Sinjar after fleeing the militants have been streaming into Iraq's northern Kurdistan region.
Kurdish forces have been bolstered further after the State Department confirmed the Obama administration has begun directly providing them with weapons to defend themselves against attacks by Islamic State, previously known as ISIS.
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has chaired a meeting of the Government's Cobra emergency committee, after a No 10 source told Sky News there were no plans to recall Parliament to discuss the crisis despite mounting pressure.
A Number 10 spokeswoman later confirmed after the meeting that "a small number" of RAF Tornado fast jets would be "pre-positioned" in the area in case their surveillance capabilities are needed to help organise humanitarian efforts.
Mr Hammond welcomed Mr al Abadi's nomination and added it was "now vital that a new and fully inclusive government be formed quickly in order to respond to the crisis in Iraq".