REGIONAL COMMAND EAST, Afghanistan – The U.S. military is predicting a violent winter in Afghanistan as coalition troops bear down on insurgents, setting off clashes the top U.S. commander in the east says will come "by design, not by accident."
Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schlosser commands troops in Regional Command East, the rocky, mountainous region of Afghanistan that hugs Pakistan along a 450-mile border.
Schlosser said many insurgents live and train in RC-East, launching deadly attacks during warmer months and receding into the mountains for protection during the snowy winters. This year he is planning to move his soldiers from the elite 101st Airborne into the mountains to seek them out — and rout them.
Unlike his British counterparts, who say no military victory is possible here, Schlosser is confident of a coalition victory over the insurgents.
"There's absolutely no way we're going to lose," he told FOX News. "As I told you, most of these fights are either militarily insignificant or we clobber them."
Violence is up, he said, because U.S. troops have taken the fight to the enemy this year, moving into many areas they have not been to before.
There have been a lot of fights, amounting to a 40 percent increase in violence this past summer, much of it involving the 101st Airborne, which patrols the East with the growing Afghan army.
Schlosser tells FOX News many more foreign fighters have shown up on this eastern battlefield, acting as teachers and mentors to help the insurgency become a better fighting force. They come from Saudi Arabia, Chechnya and even Iraq, which they are leaving to come fight in Afghanistan.
"Before you would find an attack where they would try to shoot at us and then just run," he said. "Now you see they modulate, try to find our weak spot. They use maneuvering forces, they use support by fire positions and radio listening silence."
Schlosser blames Pakistan for allowing the insurgents — composed of Al Qaeda, the Taliban and another half-dozen radical tribal leaders — to have a home in the so-called border tribal areas.
Almost weekly in the last month U.S. drones have fired into Pakistan killing insurgents, a message to Pakistan that if they won't act, America will.
Stirred by insurgent attacks in their own country, the Pakistani Army has begun some heavy bombing and fighting.
"What we have seen over the past several months is a growing realization that the enemy … comes both ways," he told FOX News. "They come from Afghanistan [into Pakistan] too, [and insurgents are] a clear existential threat to Pakistan as it is to Afghanistan."
Several weeks ago, the Pakistani army fired on an American helicopter flying along the Afghan-Pakistan border. The general says despite the tension U.S. forces "can move around that border, we do and won't stop," he says strongly.
Schlosser, who follows the Petraeus school of counterinsurgency methods, said he already sees his fight bearing fruit, noting villages where just months ago no one was in the street, but where improved security has allowed people to return to the marketplace.
Despite recent attacks and ambushes on key roads linking eastern provinces to Kabul, Schlosser said living conditions are slowly improving as Afghan troops and police push further out from Kabul to secure towns and villages.
Though some Afghans claim that Kabul is encircled by U.S. forces, Schlosser says he deploys troops from other areas to respond to attacks, shifting forces around to make up for what he says are inadequate troop levels.
But soon the 101st Airborne will be supported by a brigade from the 10th Mountain Division, an infusion of 3,500 soldiers set to arrive in January.
Three more U.S. Brigades — around 10,000 troops — have also been requested to beef up security in the south, but that request will be considered by the next U.S. president.
If the U.S. can't commit more troops, Schlosser believes it will mean a longer fight for U.S. troops.
"It is a slow win and Americans aren't going to want to win this way over this long," he said.