The Obama administration has more than doubled the number of special forces in Afghanistan, tasking them with hunting down Taliban leaders—in part because it’s worried that the US has a dwindling window to defang the insurgency before its scheduled 2011 withdrawal, senior officials tell the LA Times. They’re also hoping that eliminating Taliban leaders will push more insurgent fighters to defect.
“You can’t kill your way out of these things, but you can remove a lot of negative influences,” said a senior Defense official. “A significant portion of the leadership has fled over the border, been captured, or removed from the equation.” But the move carries risks; special forces screw-ups have killed civilians in the past, something Gen. Stanley McChrystal has gone to great lengths to avoid. (Read more Afghanistan war stories.)