The Taliban have gained the upper hand in Afghanistan, the top American commander there said, forcing the U.S. to change its strategy in the eight-year-old conflict by increasing the number of troops in heavily populated areas like the volatile southern city of Kandahar, the insurgency’s spiritual home.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal warned that means U.S. casualties, already running at record levels, will remain high for months to come.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, the commander offered a preview of the strategic assessment he is to deliver to Washington later this month, saying the troop shifts are designed to better protect Afghan civilians from rising levels of Taliban violence and intimidation. The coming redeployments are the clearest manifestation to date of Gen. McChrystal’s strategy for Afghanistan, which puts a premium on safeguarding the Afghan population rather than hunting down militants. [continued…]
Fifty Afghans believed to be drug traffickers with ties to the Taliban have been placed on a Pentagon target list to be captured or killed, reflecting a major shift in American counternarcotics strategy in Afghanistan, according to a Congressional study to be released this week.
United States military commanders have told Congress that they are convinced that the policy is legal under the military’s rules of engagement and international law. They also said the move is an essential part of their new plan to disrupt the flow of drug money that is helping finance the Taliban insurgency.
In interviews with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is releasing the report, two American generals serving in Afghanistan said that major traffickers with proven links to the insurgency have been put on the “joint integrated prioritized target list.” That means they have been given the same target status as insurgent leaders, and can be captured or killed at any time. [continued…]
Contested claims continued Sunday over a reported falling out among factions struggling for control of the Pakistani Taliban, a day after Pakistani officials said they had news that the No. 2 figure in the militant group had been shot to death.
Pakistani officials said Saturday that Hakimullah Mehsud, a young and aggressive commander, had been shot dead in a fight with another leader, Waliur Rehman, during a meeting in a remote area of South Waziristan. The officials said the men were fighting over who would take over the Pakistani Taliban after the apparent death of the group’s supreme leader, Baitullah Mehsud, in an American drone airstrike on Wednesday.
But on Sunday, Reuters reported that in a phone call, Mr. Rehman denied that any special meeting or fight had occurred, and insisted that Hakimullah Mehsud was still alive. [continued…]