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Other News: General Warns of ‘Serious’ Challenges in Afghanistan

August 31, 2009 at 12:00 AM EST
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JIM LEHRER: In other news today: The top commander of allied forces in Afghanistan submitted his assessment of the war to the Pentagon and to NATO. U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal warned, the situation in Afghanistan is serious, but success is achievable. And he also called for a new plan to fight the Taliban.

Before Defense Secretary Gates saw that report, he said he expected it would reflect a mixed picture.

ROBERT GATES: I think that there aren’t too many people with too rosy a view of what’s going on in Afghanistan. I think that there are a lot of challenges. But I think some of the gloom and doom, perhaps, is somewhat overdrawn as well. But there’s no question our casualties are up. And there’s no question we have a very tough fight in front of us, a lot of challenges.

JIM LEHRER: Gates’ remarks came as the U.S. military reported two more American deaths in Afghanistan. The soldiers were killed in bombings in the south.

Forty-seven Americans died in August, the deadliest month for U.S. forces in the entire eight-year war. That was up slightly from last month, when 45 U.S. service members lost their lives.

New vote tallies in the Afghan presidential election were released today. With half the country’s ballots now in, President Karzai maintained a lead with close to 46 percent of the votes. He needs 50 percent to avoid a runoff. His main challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, has 33 percent. Some 550 major fraud allegations have been filed, which could delay the official results beyond September.

In Pakistan, scattered gun battles across the northwestern Swat Valley left at least 45 Taliban militants dead. They followed a suicide bomb attack on a police station Sunday that killed 17 cadets. In the southwest, a key border crossing reopened today, after a string of 16 fuel tankers were bombed there yesterday. The convoy of trucks were bound for NATO troops in Afghanistan.

A strong hurricane in the Pacific Ocean edged closer to striking the West Coast of Mexico today. Jimena was just short of Category 5 status, the strongest of all hurricanes, with sustained winds over 156 miles an hour. It was on path to hit the Baja Peninsula tomorrow evening. That area is home to many resorts. Today, residents and vacationers prepared to evacuate.

The Walt Disney Company announced plans to buy Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion. The deal would give Disney ownership of 5,000 Marvel characters, including Spider-Man, Iron Man and the Fantastic Four.

The boards of both companies have approved the transaction. The deal is expected to close by the end of the year.

On Wall Street today, the major — a major sell-off in China dragged U.S. stocks down. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 48 points, to close at 9496. The Nasdaq fell more than 19 points, to close at 2009.

The price of crude oil fell nearly 4 percent. In New York trading, the cost of a barrel dropped below $70.