More than 4,000 people, a quarter of them civilians, were killed in fighting last year, the most violent year since the Taliban were ousted in 2001. NATO commanders and analysts warn this year could be just as bad or worse.
Ater attempts at conventional pitched battles failed last year, the Taliban are expected to return to more conventional guerrilla tactics against government forces and the roughly 45,000 foreign soldiers in the country.
A key tactic is expected to be suicide bombings, which rose dramatically last year, killing more than 200 people, but which still remain much rarer than in Iraq. The Taliban say they have 2,000 suicide bombers ready and another 3,000 in training.
Afghanistan's government says the militants are still sponsored by Pakistan, their main backer until September 11 attacks on the United States.