In a major shift that could change the nature of the war in Afghanistan, the US-led forces have started the targeted killings of insurgents from Al Qaeda and the Taliban, a media report said.
The Obama administration's new strategy of hunting down militants has turned out to work well, The New York Times said.
Based on the American military experience in Iraq as well as Afghanistan, it is not clear that killing enemy fighters is sufficient by itself to cripple an insurgency. Still, commando raids over the last five months have taken more than 130 significant insurgents out of action, while interrogations of captured fighters have led to a fuller picture of the enemy, administration officials and diplomats said.
American intelligence reports have recently revealed growing examples of Taliban fighters who are fearful of moving into higher-level command positions because of these lethal operations, according to a senior American military officer who follows Afghanistan closely, the daily said.
After gaining some leverage over the Taliban, US officials are now debating when to try to bring them to the negotiating table to end the fighting.
Rattling the Taliban, officials said, may open the door to reconciling with them more quickly, even if the officials caution that the outreach is still deeply uncertain.
American military officials and Afghan President Hamid Karzai have begun a robust discussion about "to what degree these people are going to be allowed to have a seat at the table," one military official said. "The only real solution to Afghanistan has got to be political."
The new thinking comes at a time when the lack of apparent progress in the nearly nine-year war is making it harder for US President Barack Obama to hold his own party together on the issue, the report said.