More troops may go to Afghanistan

WASHINGTON - Pentagon leaders on Wednesday signaled a surge in U.S. forces in Afghanistan 'sooner rather than later' - a shift that could come later this year as they prepare to cut troop levels in Iraq.

Faced with an increasingly sophisticated insurgency, particularly along Afghanistan's border with Pakistan, defense officials said sending more troops would have a significant impact on the violence.

'I think that we are clearly working very hard to see if there are opportunities to send additional forces sooner rather than later,' Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Pentagon reporters. But, he added that no final decisions or recommendations have been made.

US abandons Afghan outpost

U.S. troops abandoned a remote outpost in eastern Afghanistan where militants killed nine of their comrades this week, officials said Wednesday, in another sign of the struggle facing foreign and Afghan security forces strung out along the mountainous border.

Elsewhere in the frontier region, NATO launched artillery and helicopter strikes in Pakistan after coming under insurgent rocket fire, officials said.

The violence is another indication of the growing strength of the Taliban-led insurgency, especially in Afghanistan's east, where the outpost near the village of Wanat was breached by militants on Sunday. Nine Americans were killed in the deadliest incident for U.S. forces in three years.

Israeli critics question prisoner swap

JERUSALEM - Critics of Israel's lopsided prisoner exchange with Lebanese guerrillas said Wednesday that such deals only encourage more hostage-taking - a fear underscored by Gaza militants who said the swap proves that kidnapping is the only language Israel understands.

Pentagon eyes more Iraq troop reductions

WASHINGTON - The Pentagon's top military officer said Wednesday that he is likely to recommend further troop reductions in Iraq this fall.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that on his recent trip to Iraq, he found conditions had improved.