Western officials believe that a turning point has been reached in the war against the Taliban, with a series of breakthroughs suggesting that the insurgents are on the back foot for the first time since their resurgence four years ago.
While outright victory remains remote, there have been some encouraging developments in the past three weeks. First came reports of the death of Hakimullah Mehsud, the Pakistani Taliban leader, in a CIA drone strike in northwestern Pakistan. Then there was the launch of Operation Moshtarak, the biggest assault on the Afghan Taliban since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
After that came India’s decision to resume direct negotiations with Pakistan, suspended after the attacks on Mumbai in November 2008, and to press ahead with that plan even after a bombing in the western city of Poona. This week it emerged that Afghan Taliban representatives had held secret peace talks with the Afghan Government in the Maldives.
At the same time came news that Pakistan had arrested Mullah Baradar, the Afghan Taliban’s second-in-command, along with five other Taliban and Al Qaeda figures.
Pakistani officials confirmed yesterday that the brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani — a militant leader with links to Al Qaeda — was killed in another CIA drone strike.
“We’ve made more progress in the last month than in the last year,” one Western official in the region told the Times.