NATO's top commander has said the alliance likely will expand its Afghan mission by year's end to include the entire country, including the lawless east where militants killed a coalition soldier in the latest fighting.
The Dutch military also said its commandos killed 18 militants in an operation to clear rugged hills near a base for its forces deploying in the insurgency-wracked south, where NATO is preparing to take over the security command by the end of this month.
Two senior British army commanders, meanwhile, said Taliban guerrillas posed a severe threat to NATO troops but would be beaten, despite significant shortfalls in logistical support like helicopters and reserve troops.
"The flexibility and speed of reaction of reserves, absolutely key in an unpredictable counterinsurgency, can be constrained," Lt Gen David Richards, the commander of NATO troops in Afghanistan, told the Royal United Services Institute in London.
"This will, undoubtedly, jeopardise success."
But despite Richard's assessment, NATO's supreme commander, US Gen James L Jones, said during a tour of the southern province on Friday that member nations were expected to approve a plan to expand across Afghanistan at the alliance's November summit in Latvia.
"Certainly by the Riga summit or sooner we should be able to achieve this," Jones told reporters in the southern city of Kandahar.
NATO forces already have a presence in the capital, Kabul, and the western and northern regions.