22 Taliban fighters killed in Afghanistan

KABUL: More than 20 Taliban were killed in a massive operation in western Afghanistan, the interior ministry said Wednesday, as the United States considers sending more troops to battle a worsening insurgency.

Taliban activity has been intensifying in recent months as foreign troops and their Afghan counterparts concentrated efforts on insurgent hotspots such as southern Kandahar and Helmand provinces.

Insurgents have spilled over the provincial border from Helmand into western Farah, where the fierce battle took place on Tuesday night.

The interior ministry said in a statement that Afghan and international forces killed 22 Taliban militants during the operation by Afghan police and army, backed by coalition forces, which lasted almost four hours. It said that 25 insurgents were wounded and another 12 arrested.

“Eight rocket launchers, 35 Kalashnikovs, one device for detonating remote-controlled bombs, hundreds

of thousands of rounds of ammunition and some

anti-vehicle mines were also discovered,” the ministry statement said.

There were no police casualties, it said, adding that

the operation in the Pusht Rod district began at 8.30 pm (1600 GMT) and lasted

until midnight.

It gave no further details of the battle. US President Barack Obama is weighing a request from his military top brass for an additional 30,000-40,000 troops as part of a change in strategy from killing insurgents to protecting civilians here and promoting development.

Obama has called his most formidable military, political and national security aides to the secure Situation Room of the White House, to brainstorm the way forward as he mulls sending thousands more US troops into battle.

The meeting scheduled for Wednesday will culminate in a fateful decision on whether to escalate the war.

The president is under

intense pressure to reinvigorate US strategy, faced

with a strengthening Taliban insurgency and souring

US public opinion on the eight-year wa. But aides

say he will not make a final decision for weeks.

The US and NATO have more than 100,000 troops based in Afghanistan to wipe out the Taliban threat, with the fiercest fighting in Helmand and Kandahar, which are seeing an escalation of deaths caused by remote-controlled bombs.

Six militants dead in US strike

Islamabad: At least six militants were killed Wednesday in a US drone missile attack in northwest Pakistan, security officials said, in the third such strike on Taliban strongholds in 24 hours.

The latest attack struck in the lawless tribal region of North Waziristan, a Taliban bolthole where Washington says Islamist fighters are hiding out and planning attacks on Western troops stationed in neighbouring Afghanistan.

“It was a US drone attack which targeted a compound in Norak area

in North Waziristan

killing six militants. Two missiles were fired from a US drone at 2:10 pm (0810 GMT),” a security official in the region said.

Another security official confirmed the attack, and told AFP that Taliban rebels were holding a meeting in the compound at the time of the attack. — AP