“Southern Afghanistan” meaning Helmand province, in particular, site of yesterday’s airstrike on a congregation of the Taliban’s finest to witness a public execution. Net result: 100 jihadis dead and up to five senior commanders, including possibly the new operational honcho himself, Mansour Dadullah. Dadullah is the brother of the now-deceased “Taliban Zarqawi,” Mullah Dadullah, having taken the reins after NATO liquidated him in June just in time to preside over that dopey Taliban suicide bomber “graduation ceremony” that Brian Ross did so much heavy breathing over. I wonder how many graduates were at the hanging yesterday and didn’t make it out.

I understand Tammy Bruce’s point, especially in light of previous missed opportunities, but at this stage I’ll take good news wherever I can find it. Which brings us to the must-read of the day from an unlikely source. The airstrike is just the latest in a long series of victories in Helmand, the Times reports, giving NATO and the Brits in particular some desperately needed momentum:

As NATO forces have become better established and more numerous in southern Afghanistan, American forces have been able to deploy more troops in the east. There, they are also reporting gains in some border areas. All of this has helped NATO forces take the offensive against the Taliban, rather than fighting from their back foot, as they were forced to do last year, and gain local confidence…

What has made the difference here, the British say, is a shift in their tactics and a doubling of force numbers, to nearly 6,000 today, with more troops on the way…

The British have now been able to focus on their original counterinsurgency plan, which was to create “inkblots,” or secure zones around the main towns, and gradually expand security outward. In this way they are starting reconstruction projects in the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah, the town of Gereshk on the main road, and now Sangin…

“I think the big battle was for local support,” Colonel Carver said. “A proportion of the locals now think we are actually going to stay, and therefore they are prepared to throw their cards in with us. Before, they thought we were going to come in, kill a few Taliban and then leave.”

“It has gone from people too scared to even look at you or wave in case someone was watching, now they will talk,” he added. “It’s a step forward that they will talk to you, and it’s a real step forward that they talk to you as if you can solve their problems.”

Read all of it and pay special attention to what’s said about flagging “tier two” support. No wonder the Pakistanis are anxious for NATO to leave: the hotter it gets for the jihadis in Afghanistan, the more likely they are to turn inward on Musharraf instead.

Update: Which isn’t to say we’ll be declaring victory anytime soon.