The US rebuffed Iraq's request for airstrikes as insurgents gained strength, but American drones were already collecting intelligence on the militants. The secret drone program, carried out with the consent of the Iraqi government since last year, failed to predict the rapid advance of militants who have now seized several cities, officials tell the Wall Street Journal. "It's not like it did any good," one US official says. President Obama says "all the options" are being considered to help Iraq and while the use of ground troops has been ruled out, officials are considering expanding the drone program.
The al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and Syria militants have vowed to take the fight to Baghdad, and although the capital is not expected to fall, Americans in Iraq are keeping an eye on the exit. Officials say they have stepped up plans for the evacuation of the US Embassy in Baghdad, and the BBC reports that American defense contractors working with the Iraqi military are being shifted to safer areas. Hundreds of contractors "are being temporarily relocated by their companies due to security concerns in the area," according to a State Department spokeswoman. (Read more Iraq stories.)