As Canada's combat mission in Kandahar ended, Canadian commanders were busy patting themselves on the back and proclaiming the Taliban insurgency in that province "flattened" due to their efforts. Of course it was nonsense but it was greedily gobbled down by NewsyDupes like the Star's Dimanno and the Post's Blatchford and others and then regurgitated for Canadians willing to eat that sort of stuff.
At the time, credible analysts warned the Talibs had shifted their focus from engaging ISAF forces to targeted assassinations of top government officials. In other words, they were out to decapitate Karzai's power structure in the Pashtun homeland.
They began by taking out Karzai's brother, Ahmed, considered the most powerful official in Kandahar province. Then they got the mayor of Kandahar City. Yesterday they attacked the compound of warlord Matiullah Khan in neighbouring Uruzgan province. Khan survived but 6 attackers and 11 others were killed.
As The Guardian reveals, the characters the Talibs are targeting are "malign actors" that Western commanders revile yet depend upon:
Ahmed Wali, Jan Mohammad and Matiullah Khan have much in common. All three had been condemned as troublemakers by Nato chiefs who said their monopolisation of the south's booming war economy and the exclusion of other tribal groupings from power and wealth helped fuel anti-government resentment and Taliban recruitment.
They also all represent rival centres of power to official government institutions that have struggled to develop in the shadow of such powerful warlords.
Despite concerns over the impact of what Nato calls "malign actors", it has been unable to dislodge them in part because they play a vital role in supporting military operations.
Matiullah Khan's 2,000-man militia, for example, effectively controls the vital highway linking Kandahar to Tirin Kot. Without him crucial supplies would not be able to reach the Dutch, Australian and US troops who have all operated in the province over recent years.
Securing convoys has earned him a fortune in fees of up to $1,700 (£1,050) per truck, which he collects from logistics companies. His militia also won him the respect and support of US special forces, who conduct joint operations with Matiullah's men despite some reports that he has also co-operated with insurgents and drug traffickers.
What the latest shift in Taliban tactics reveals is that they retain the initiative in southern Afghanistan. They still enjoy plenty of freedom to modify their strategy and tactics to exploit conditions on the ground as they change. When they can get to Hamid Karzai's brother and the mayor of Kandahar undetected and unchallenged, we are not winning anything.
Our chest thumping? We come along, locate a Taliban latrine and then proclaim that we scared the crap out of them. Yippee, we won.