The Pentagon won’t admit it, but it becomes increasingly clear that the US and the Taliban are now — by differing means — pursuing the same objective: finding a way to get American troops out of Afghanistan.
The Washington Post reports:
Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, has touted the success of recent operations and indicated that the military thinks it will be able to show meaningful progress by the December review. He said last week that progress is occurring “more rapidly than was anticipated” but acknowledged that major obstacles remain.
U.S. intelligence officials present a similar, but inverted, view – noting tactical successes but warning that well into a major escalation of the conflict, there is little indication that the direction of the war has changed.
Among the troubling findings is that Taliban commanders who are captured or killed are often replaced in a matter of days.
U.S. officials said they have seen isolated indications of slumping morale among some Taliban units, including a reluctance among some mid-level commanders to replace superiors who were captured or killed, apparently out of fear that they might meet the same fate.
But those examples have been offset by other instances in which Taliban succession is almost seamless. In northwestern Bagdhis province, for example, U.S. special operations forces thought they had delivered devastating blows to Taliban guerrillas, killing the group’s local leader, Mullah Ismail, as well as his apparent heir, only to watch yet another “shadow governor” take the job.
The Taliban has dispatched lieutenants to engage in discussions with the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. But U.S. intelligence officials said the Taliban envoys seem to be participating mainly out of curiosity, convinced that they are in a position to prevail.