Taliban militants took heavy losses in fighting across southern Afghanistan, most of them in a bold but failed assault against the capital of Helmand Province. About 60 were killed when they were spotted massing for the attack on Lashkar Gah in a presumed final offensive before the onset of winter. Fifty-four others died in separate clashes, US and Afghan provincial spokesmen said. The Taliban resurgence in the region has led coalition military commanders to call for more troops. Among them: US Gen. David McKernan, who leads NATO forces in Afghanistan. But he also said, "We are not losing."
With the power-sharing deal again on the brink of collapse in Zimbabwe, mediator Thabo Mbeki was en route there Monday to try to bring both sides together. The ex-South African leader was asked to reprise his role after President Robert Mugabe reserved all of the most vital cabinet ministries for his ZANU-PF movement. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change party threatened to pull out of the agreement permanently if Mbeki's efforts failed.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of Iraq told The Times (London) that British troops no longer are needed to provide security in his country. Britain has 4,100 soldiers in southern Iraq, although their mission has not been politically popular there or at home. In an interview published Monday, Maliki thanked them "for the role they have played," but expressed disappointment over their failure to confront "the gangs and the militias" in last spring's fighting in Basra.
Amid chants of "Long live Her Majesty," Thailand's queen attended the funeral Monday of an antigovernment protester, the first outward sign that the revered monarchy has chosen to side with opponents of the ruling People's Power Party. The protester died after she apparently was struck by a tear gas canister fired by police in last week's violent demonstration in Bangkok. Leaders of the opposition postponed a new protest until Wednesday. Embattled Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat offered "regret about what happened" but said he wouldn't resign.
A Muslim cleric with a reputation as a leading advocate for reform announced his candidacy for president in Iran. Mehdi Karroubi told a news conference Sunday he'll challenge hard-line incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in next June's election because "I believe [he] has failed in foreign policy and on economic problems." Fellow cleric Mohammad Khatami, who was Ahmadinejad's predecessor, also has said he is considering another run for the post.
Due to a booming economy, voters in Azerbaijan are considered certain to give President Ilham Aliyev a second and final five-year term when they go to the polls Wednesday. He has six challengers, but leading opposition parties have said they'll boycott in protest against a crackdown on the pro-democracy movement and the jailing of journalists who have been critical of Aliyev's government. The oil-rich former Soviet republic has had to perform a careful balancing act between the West and an increasingly assertive Russia.
Yet another impeachment effort against Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was begun by her opponents in the House of Representatives Monday. In a formal complaint, they accused her of corruption, vote-rigging, and other crimes. By law, one such complaint may be filed per year, and the previous period expired last weekend. All three impeachment bids so far have failed due to technicalities.