Senior U.S. officials say they've vastly ramped up intelligence sorties over Iraq to better understand an expanding extremist insurgency and help Iraqi forces fight back.

The State Department's Brett McGurk and Defense Department's Elissa Slotkin say 50 flights a day are happening. A few months ago, the U.S. was conducting about one such flight a month.

The officials are briefing the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the U.S. response to the offensive by an al-Qaida offshoot.

McGurk, who spent the last seven weeks in Iraq, says the U.S. has secured American personnel and property and is helping Iraq form a new, more inclusive government.

House Republicans want to know why the Obama administration rejected Iraqi requests to authorize drone strikes against extremist camps as far back as a year ago.