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US Extends Tour of Duty for 2,200 Marines in Afghanistan

The U.S. military has extended by 30 days the tour of duty of 2,200 Marines who are serving in volatile southern Afghanistan.

Pentagon officials Thursday said the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit will stay in Helmand province an extra month, and will return home in November, rather than October. They said NATO commanders requested the extension aimed at fending off the rising Taliban insurgency, and that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates approved the request.

The move comes as U.N. envoy to Afghanistan Kai Eide is calling for greater cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan, saying it is key to stabilizing the region. Eide says the Afghan and Pakistani governments should enter into a political dialogue to counter the growing insurgency in their border region.

On Wednesday, President Bush acknowledged an increase in troop casualties in Afghanistan and called June a "tough month" for coalition forces.

Separately, a U.N. Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, said children are suffering greatly from the Afghan conflict. Coomaraswamy said many children are being killed and wounded in violence, while others are being recruited to fight, including serving as suicide bombers.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.