KABUL, Afghanistan, Dec. 16 (UPI) -- U.S. special operations in Afghanistan have been strengthened as part of a strategy to get faster results in fighting the Taliban insurgency, officials said.
The Special Forces, on the orders of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan, are now mainly targeting key Taliban figures, instead of largely going after al-Qaida figures as they did prior to the strategy shift, the Los Angeles Times reported.
"We've refocused their mission and increased their op tempo," a senior military official told the Times.
The number of raids by the Army's Delta Force and Navy's SEAL Team Six jumped to 90 in November from 20 in May, the report said.
The move, the first of its kind since 2001, comes at a time when only a few dozen al-Qaida operatives are believed to be holed up in the Taliban strongholds of eastern and southern regions, which are the special forces' areas of operation, the report said. The strategy change may go against the thinking of U.S. lawmakers and others who want the military to concentrate on eradicating al-Qaida, the report said.
However, senior military leaders say retaking Taliban gains is now the overriding short-term priority.
"This is Gen. McChrystal's play," one official told the Times. "They have to show they can reverse momentum. He has to show he is making headway."
President Barack Obama's Afghan strategy calls for reduction of troop levels beginning in 2011 based on ground conditions. A spokesman for the command in Afghanistan declined to discuss the special operations forces' mission, except to say pressure has been increased on the insurgency.
"We target all insurgent networks who are causing casualties either to our forces or the Afghan people," he told the Times.