By Ahmed Rasheed and Raheem Salman BAGHDAD (Reuters) - An offensive by insurgents that threatens to dismember Iraq seemed to slow on Saturday after days of lightning advances as government forces regained some territory in counter-attacks, easing pressure on the Shi'ite-led government in Baghdad. As Iraqi officials spoke of wresting back the initiative against Sunni militants, neighboring Shi'ite Iran held out the prospect of working with its longtime U.S. arch-enemy to help restore security in Iraq. U.S. President Barack Obama said on Friday he was reviewing military options, short of sending combat troops, to combat the insurgency. The United States ordered an aircraft carrier moved into the Gulf on Saturday, readying it in case Washington decides to pursue a military option after insurgents overran towns and territories in the north and advanced on Baghdad.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered an aircraft carrier moved into the Gulf on Saturday, readying it in case Washington decides to pursue a military option after insurgents overwhelmed a string of Iraqi cities this week and threatened Baghdad. "The order will provide the Commander-in-Chief additional flexibility should military options be required to protect American lives, citizens and interests in Iraq," the Pentagon said in a statement. The carrier USS George H.W. Bush, moving from the North Arabian Sea, will be accompanied by the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea and the guided-missile destroyer USS Truxtun, the statement said. President Barack Obama said on Friday he needed several days to determine how the United States would help Iraq deal with the insurgency.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Despite a Taliban threat to stay away, Afghans lined up Saturday to vote in a presidential runoff between two candidates who both promise to improve ties with the West and combat corruption as they confront a powerful Taliban insurgency and preside over the withdrawal of most foreign troops by the end of the year.