KABUL — U.S. and Afghan forces are accelerating plans to decapitate the Taliban insurgency, expanding a new offensive strategy that appears to be stumping the group’s efforts to make dramatic gains on the battlefield.
After 15 years of war and several failed attempts to reach a negotiated peace deal, the dynamics of the conflict changed in the spring, when President Obama for the first time ordered a U.S. airstrike to kill the Taliban leader in Pakistan. Over the past four months, Afghan special forces have also killed more than three dozen senior and mid-level Taliban commanders in targeted airstrikes or raids, according to an Afghan security document obtained by The Washington Post.
The operations are part of a broader effort by Afghan forces, backed by increasing U.S airstrikes, to treat the Taliban more as a foreign enemy than as a domestic insurgent group worthy of some military restraint, according to Afghan officials and analysts. As a result, they say, there are signs the Taliban is under strain this summer while Afghan security forces, at least the elite ones, are finally becoming a battle-ready force.
“Last year, we did not have the same achievements, and we did not do this,” said Sediq Sediqqi, chief spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry, referring to Afghan commandos and special operations forces in action against Taliban targets. “This year, they had a mission, they had intelligence, they were trained, and [Taliban leaders] were targeted.”
“It’s not that they were killed by accident,” Sediqqi added. “They were targets.”
The raids were carried out by both Afghan police and army special forces units relying on a target list developed by the country’s intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security, Sediqqi said.
Brig. Gen. Besmellah Waziri, commander of the Afghan army’s special operations division, referred to the operations as an “outright change in strategy” aimed at “ringleaders,” regardless of