In a week spent in Helmand province, The Daily Telegraph has found widespread evidence that special forces operations are degrading the Taliban's leadership and its ability to co-ordinate operations.
But there are also indications of increasing radicalisation within the Taliban as more extreme fighters, many of them al-Qa'eda-linked foreign militants, fill the gaps left when experienced Taliban leaders are killed[...]
Using local intermediaries, the Telegraph was able to meet two mid-level Taliban commanders. "There are a lot of small commanders now," said one, a veteran of several years of fighting but still in his 20s. He said that changes had come since the death of Mullah Dadullah, the high-profile overall commander in southern Afghanistan who was killed by the Special Boat Service last May.
"Now, after Dadullah's death, we have a motto that everyone has become a Dadullah," he added, speaking softly with the Arabic-accented speech characteristic of Taliban fighters trained in Pakistani madrassahs (religious seminaries).
The other Taliban commander, who we met separately, was older. He said Taliban commanders were wary of becoming "a big name" as it made them a target.
Western military sources report that Taliban attacks have become steadily less co-ordinated in recent months.
"The Taliban have lost so many commanders, but it is not like losing a British general with 30 years' experience," said Hajji Mohammad Anwar, of the provincial council of Helmand. "Anyone who just comes from the madrassahs, tomorrow they are a big commander."
The older commander continued to speak of how local citizens complain of hard line views of the Taliban. Cutting off hands for robbing was one he mentioned. Apparently he failed to mention cutting off heads, arms and legs in front of the local population to deter them from working with the coalition.
As seen with al-Qa'eda in Iraq, Islamist terror groups have a history of progressively alienating local support through radicalisation. "The new Taliban are really emotional. They are very impulsive. They are war-addicted," said the older commander.
Interesting that the Telegraph is able to meet with these commanders.
Also at My Pet Jawa