US Marines ordered to stay longer in Afghanistan

Roughly 1,250 Marines serving as trainers for the Afghan security forces are being ordered to stay on the warfront about a month longer to continue a mission that military leaders say is a top priority, a senior US military official said Monday. Defense Secretary Robert Gates also has authorized the deployment of up to 200 other troops to Afghanistan to support the Marines, including eight helicopter crews that could be shifted from Iraq if commanders decide. The senior military official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the formal announcement has not yet been made. The decision to extend the tour of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment in Afghanistan came just a month after defense officials told the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit that it would stay an extra month in Afghanistan.