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SENATE

Conflict described as ‘roller coaster’ ride

Gen. David H. Petraeus, who oversees the war in Afghanistan as head of U.S. Central Command, compared the conflict there to a roller-coaster ride with ups and downs similar to what was seen in Iraq.

“This is a tough, tough business,” he said during a Senate hearing Wednesday. “And those who are living it have to keep their eye on the horizon to ensure the trajectory is generally upward.”

Military officials say most of the extra troops have arrived but it will take several more months before marked progress can be shown.

Even with reinforcements, the challenges are numerous. Crucial campaigns in the Afghan towns of Marjah and Kandahar are moving slower than expected; NATO remains short on personnel to train the Afghan security force; the Afghan government remains rife with corruption; and a recent spate of Taliban attacks has put June on track to become the deadliest month in the war.

As of Wednesday morning, at least 45 NATO members, including 28 Americans, were killed in Afghanistan in June. That midmonth tally compares with 51 NATO deaths in May and 33 in April.

Much of the debate on Capitol Hill has focused on when U.S. troops should leave. President Obama’s promise to start the withdrawal in July 2011 helped him with Democrats, but it prompted Republican charges that the U.S. was encouraging the Taliban and demoralizing its allies by setting a hard and fast withdrawal date.

MINNESOTA

Franken subject of comic book

ST. PAUL | U.S. Sen. Al Franken is stepping into the pages of a new comic book.

A biographical comic called Political Power: Al Franken goes on sale on Wednesday.

It’s the latest in a line of comic books featuring politicians, from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama.

The Minnesota Democrat is a former “Saturday Night Live” star who won his seat from Republican Norm Coleman last year in a contest that dragged on eight months past the election.

The 32-page comic book from Bluewater Productions of Vancouver, Wash., explores Mr. Franken’s career and his election.

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