From the UK Telegraph
Every evening in Afghanistan, small, heavily armed units of SAS soldiers are taking part in "kill or capture" missions against the Taliban. The majority of the raids – which are guided by the latest intelligence reports provided to Nato headquarters in Kabul – are targeted directly at senior Taliban commanders, those responsible for planting the deadly roadside bombs that have accounted for so many British casualties.
The SAS raids are part of a special forces operation on an "industrial scale", devised by General David Petraeus, the US commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan, to destroy the Taliban's war-fighting capability. And the strategy is proving to be a resounding success.
Over a 90-day period this summer, 365 key Taliban commanders were either killed or captured in a total of 3,000 night raids carried out by British and American special forces units, operating predominantly in southern Afghanistan. Another 1,031 "rank and file" fighters were killed, and 1,355 taken into custody.
Not surprisingly, this unprecedented level of special forces activity is having a devastating impact on the Taliban's effectiveness and morale. British commanders have reported a significant drop in their casualty rates, while the number of roadside bombs has fallen by a quarter.
Equally important, the high attrition rate has led many potential Taliban recruits to have second thoughts about risking their lives for the cause. "When the average life expectancy of a commander is around six months, it certainly concentrates the minds of those who are thinking about joining the insurgency," says a senior British officer working with SAS units in Afghanistan. "Suddenly there is an awareness that there is a price to be paid for planting roadside bombs. Families are less keen to let their sons volunteer."
It would be tempting fate to say that we are finally winning the war against the Taliban, especially as the overall casualty rate for Nato forces this year is the highest since Western troops first deployed in late 2001. But these recent successes do suggest that the mission is heading in the right direction at last, with all the implications that might have for its future success.
If, by virtue of the special forces' relentless onslaught, the Taliban can be persuaded that they are fighting a war they can never win, then the more moderate elements within the leadership might be persuaded to opt for political reconciliation with the Afghan government, which is the fundamental objective of Gen Petraeus's counter-insurgency strategy.