As insurgent attacks have fallen in Afghanistan's southern provinces, the US is turning its focus toward the east, where such attacks jumped 20% last year. With the US set to take on an advisory role next year, the mountainous eastern region is poised to be the war's "final battleground" as the area's paralyzing winter snows melt, the Wall Street Journal observes. Troops are preparing for a "much tougher" fight in the region, which surrounds Kabul, a major insurgent target. "They are going to come out at us very hard," says Marine Gen. John Allen—possibly as soon as tomorrow.
"What most of the insurgent networks share in common in our part of the country is a desire to disrupt the stability of Kabul," says another commander. The US is prioritizing the city's safety, planning "resistance of an offensive nature" at "every step of the way" against insurgents. Troops will move to cover southern routes to the city. Meanwhile, they've been training hundreds of locals, creating village defense teams called Afghan Local Police. But "wherever the enemy boosts its numbers we move to another part where they are outnumbered," says a Taliban spokesman.