So much for winning hearts and minds in Afghanistan: The tactic that's working best for the US is the targeted assassination of insurgent leaders, reports the New York Times, rather than winning allegiance for providing stable government. Some 130 Taliban leaders have been taken out in the last five months, and while that's not likely enough to topple the insurgency, low-level commanders are reluctant to rise through the ranks and become a target.
The tactic is also giving the US leverage over the Taliban, officials say, and may ultimately help bring them to the table and broker a peace deal. Simultaneously, the US has begun a $300 million campaign to recruit low- and mid-level insurgents away from the Taliban. “We’re not ready to make the qualitative judgment that the cumulative effects of what we are doing are enough to change their calculus yet,” says a White House official. But, “If I were the Taliban, I’d be worried.”