Special ops taking out hundreds of Taliban commanders

Der Spiegel:

Through nighttime attacks and drone strikes, special forces led by the United States have massively ratcheted up their hunt for Taliban. In the past three months alone, the highly secretive forces have eliminated 365 insurgent commanders.

The international troops in Afghanistan this year, under the command of the United States, have massively stepped up the hunt for top Taliban by special forces. The units, which operate secretly and are kept apart from the normal troops, have conducted hundreds of operations in recent months in an intensity not seen before in an effort to breakdown the Taliban's resistance, weaken its leadership ranks and to eliminate networks of bomb planters.

Insiders have long known about the increased deployment of the special forces, but for the first time in the history of the nine-year war in Afghanistan, concrete figures about the deployments -- which neither NATO nor the US military speaks about publicly -- have been named. During the second week of August, leaders of the NATO troops under ISAF Commander David Petraeus were given a classified briefing on the massive anti-Taliban offensive, which began at the end of 2009, and progress that has been made.

SPIEGEL ONLINE has learned from reliable sources that the four-star general and his staff informed diplomats and top military officials that in the past three months alone, at least 365 high-ranking and mid-level insurgent commanders have been killed -- mostly through targeted operations by the special forces, comprised of heavily armed elite soldiers from all branches of the US military. In addition, 1,395 people, including many Taliban foot soldiers, have been arrested.

The briefing on the latest progress in the war, which covered the period between May 8 and August 8, provides a rare glimpse into an aspect of the Afghanistan war that up until know has only been known by the US government and a few top politicians from other NATO member states. The military officials reported that the commanders and those arrested had been "taken out of the game."

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Above all, the spectacular statistics show one thing: The will of the military leadership to reach a turning point in Afghanstan in the coming months. The sheer number of the operations strikingly underscores that General Petraeus, like his predecessor Stanley McChrystal, wants to use the special forces to gain the upper hand in Afghanistan.

It's the first time in the US military-led invasion of the country in which Taliban leaders have been sought in such a targeted manner. It's also the first time so many insurgents have been arrested or assassinated in targeted killings. Western diplomats who have been briefed in recent days say that the current force of 145,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan is acting "with maximum force" right now.

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There is more.

The specials ops have been working at night a lot to sneak up on the enemy so they have a chance of capturing them. This gives us an opportunity to gain more intelligence to exploit which has a cascading effect on enemy operations.

These attacks also at least partly explain how ineffective the Taliban have been in their recent attacks. The bombers and the leaders of the Haqqani Taliban have been the focus of many of the attacks.

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