The Haqqani network, born of the Russian war and nurtured by the CIA, is behind many spectacular assaults in Afghanistan.
As Afghan insurgents exploit popular anger at civilian deaths, the US is hitting back with its own message.
Insecurity and charges of fraud could hamper election officials' ability to ensure popular acceptance of next year's presidential poll results.
Increased strikes are causing friction between the US and Pakistani government, which prefers to negotiate with the militants
Taliban attacks are up, making this the worst season since the insurgency began and spurring greater Western troop deployments.