Allied and Afghan security forces have killed 59 Taliban militants in fighting since the weekend, a US spokesman said Tuesday. The report came as Defense Secretary Gates ended a visit to Kabul, saying senior British and UN officials were being "defeatist" in claiming the conflict with militants cannot be won. Gates added, however, that the US supports talks with "reconcilable" Taliban who might be persuaded to break ranks and stop fighting. In Germany, meanwhile, the government decided to extend and increase its commitment of troops to Afghanistan even though the mission generally lacks public approval.Skip to next paragraph
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By Thursday, Russian forces will have withdrawn from the buffer zone they occupy along Georgia's boundary with South Ossetia, their commander said. Under agreements brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the pullout must be complete as of Friday from Georgia's side of the boundary as well as from its border with Abkhazia. But the Russian commander did not mention the latter deployment. Russia has recognized both territories as independent states and plans to station 7,000 "peacekeepers" there.
A plane apparently carrying personnel from a Hungarian aid agency was forced down for violating Iran's airspace, reports said Tuesday. But the plane and its passengers were permitted to continue to their destination in Afghanistan a day later. A senior defense official contradicted his own country's news agencies, denying that the craft and some of those aboard were American.
"If need be," Turkish forces will cross the border with Iraq to raid Kurdish rebel camps, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told parliament.But he said any such operation would not target Iraqi civilians or compromise "unity and integrity." Turkey is smarting from a cross-border ambush by rebels last Friday that killed 17 soldiers, the heaviest casualty count this year. Turkish jets struck Kurdish encampments in Iraq again Tuesday, but it was not known whether they caused any rebel casualties.