An intense military campaign aimed at crippling the Taliban so far has failed to inflict more than fleeting setbacks to the insurgency or put meaningful pressure on its leaders to seek peace in Afghanistan, the Washington Post reported Tuesday, citing unnamed U.S. military and intelligence officials.
Escalated airstrikes and special operations raids have disrupted Taliban movements and damaged local cells, the paper reported. But the insurgents have been adept at absorbing the blows and they appear confident that they can outlast an American troop buildup set to subside beginning next July, officials familiar with the latest assessments of the war in Afghanistan told the paper.
A senior Defense Department official involved in assessments said the insurgency seems to be maintaining its resilience, the paper reported. The official said Taliban elements have consistently shown an ability to regroup, often within days of being routed by U.S. forces.
One of the military objectives in targeting midlevel commanders is to compel the Taliban to pursue peace talks with the Afghan government, a nascent effort that NATO officials have facilitated.
The officials said the intelligence assessments are consistent across the main spy agencies responsible for analyzing the conflict, including the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Post reported. It said the officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
The Obama administration's plan to conduct a strategic review of the war in December has touched off maneuvering between U.S. military leaders seeking support for extending the American troop buildup and skeptics looking for arguments to wind down the nation's role.
Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, has touted the success of recent operations and indicated that the military thinks it will be able to show meaningful progress by the December review. He said last week that progress is occurring "more rapidly than was anticipated" but acknowledged that major obstacles remain.
The Post reported that the intelligence officials noted tactical successes but warned that well into a major escalation of the conflict, there is little indication that the direction of the war has changed.
Over the past two months, the CIA has nearly doubled the pace of its drone campaign, killing dozens of militants. The attacks have scrambled insurgent networks, causing senior operatives to move more frequently and become more preoccupied with security, the officials told the Post. But they said the impact on the Taliban's highest ranks has been limited.