October has been a calamitous month for the Taliban guerrillas waging war from sandy mountains and pistachio forests in this corner of northwestern Afghanistan. The first to die was their leader, Mullah Ismail, hunted down and killled by U.S. Special Operations troops. Next came the heir apparent, Mullah Jamaluddin, even before he could take over as Taliban "shadow" governor. Within a week, several other top commanders were dead, a new governor had been captured and the most powerful among the remaining insurgents had lit out for the Turkmenistan border - all casualties of the secretive, midnight work of American commandos.Since Petraeus has been saying for years that killing rebels is a waste of effort, I assume that there is some other point to these attacks. In the context of the peace talks, I would guess that point is to encourage serious negotiation. If every Taliban commander has to worry about being shot in the dark, and Taliban fighters feel like they have no safe place to rest between battles, they might be more interested in a negotiated settlement. The Post piece also hints that another goal is to create tension between Taliban field commanders, who face a real risk of being killed every day, and their senior leaders, who live in safety in Pakistan.
Then again, maybe the killings will just make the Taliban angrier and spawn more killings. I suppose time will tell.