President Obama's policy in Afghanistan, subject to so much controversy at home and abroad, seems to have found considerable traction over the last few days. First is the news that the U.S.-British assault on the Taliban stronghold of Marja in the southern Helmand Province has made substantial gains and killed much of the Taliban force there and driven the rest of its cadres into Pakistan or hiding.
Second is the extraordinary news that a joint Pakistani-U.S. intelligence operation has captured the Taliban's top military commander in Karachi, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. What this apparently signals, in addition to the critical takedown of the Taliban's most important general, is that Pakistan itself has decided to turn against the Afghan Taliban, once its formidable and covert ally. This change may soon have immense adverse repercussions on the Taliban's military campaign in Afghanistan.
Third is the assessment by the Afghan police and the UN forces in Afghanistan that the Taliban's suicide-bombing effort is faltering, pointing out that, in its last 17 missions from January 24 to February 14, 2010, the Taliban bombers have failed to kill any member of the coalition forces, suggesting that the Taliban recruitments for these missions are increasingly amateurish, untrained and inept.
What all this may mean is that the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan finally is reversing the Taliban gains. And, given recent hints about secret talks between the Taliban and Karzai, the U.S., and the UN, these Taliban setbacks may lead to real talks about a peaceful settlement of the struggle. In turn, this could significantly boost Obama's standing in the U.S. at a time when his own popularity has declined and Democratic prospects in the 2010 congressional elections appear dim.