LONDON - The commander of the allied forces in Afghanistan General David Petraeus has claimed that his forces are defeating the Taliban village by village. In an interview with a British evening newspaper, Petraeus stressed the fragility of some of the gains, and was by no means declaring outright victory, but said the latest statistics showed a 'definite trend. The level of violence in Afghanistan this winter has taken the allied and Afghan military command by surprise but they believe there are signs that the Taliban are being defeated in key areas. Afghanistan sees about 90 violent incidents per day, including bombs and assassination attempts. This violence has taken us by surprise, said the US general, but then you have to reckon that violence goes up sharply in this kind of operation before it comes down. Gen Petraeus, who commanded the 'surge against al Qaeda and the insurgency in Iraq, said in some ways, Afghanistan is a more complex proposition. But it does help to have done something like this before, he added. In Iraq, he said, the winning of support from the Sunni community in movements such as the 'Anbar Awakening and 'Sons of Iraq involved large numbers, with tens of thousands coming over to the government side. But in Afghanistan it is different. It is more local. It all has to be done village by village and valley by valley. He said those now leaving Taliban control and moving towards the government should be seen as 'sons of the shuras - the local community councils. With this years mild winter, there has been no slackening of the fighting. Since the beginning of November more than 1,800 operations had been conducted by Special Forces, led by the SAS and SBS, the US Delta Force and the Australian SAS. One key indicator that the international and Afghan forces may be gaining is the increase in finds of arms caches and material for roadside bombs. Just a few months ago we were finding 20 to 30 per week, and now we are finding more than 80 per week, said Gen Petraeus. Another indicator is the number of mid-level field commanders of the Taliban being captured or killed. British forces have said they are seizing a significant commander once every three or four days. Some on his staff suggest this may be an underestimate. We have been picking up three a day recently. Many are thought to have fled to Pakistan and Iran. There are still huge concerns about corruption, the role of Pakistan and Iran, and the cohesion of the alliance in the International Security Assistance Force. The transition to full Afghan government control, intended for 2014, is also likely to take longer than most western governments would like. Heavy fighting is expected after the poppy harvest in three months, particularly in Helmand and Kandahar where, Gen Petraeus says, Isaf and Afghan forces must ensure the Taliban do not return to their old safe havens. Here the Taliban show signs of fragmenting, some breaking with the Pakistan leadership and some giving up and asking to join the Afghan police. The Taliban will have to strike back in Kandahar and Helmand this spring or face major defeat. Clearing the valleys round Sangin, centre of poppy cultivation, will be like 'taking the stopper out of the bottle, said Gen Petraeus. It will be a decision point in the whole counter-insurgency, according to a senior British commander, and British forces will be on the main effort there this summer. In Marja and Nawa, once Taliban heartlands in the most fertile area of Helmand, the US Marines saw a surge in violence up to last summer. But now farmers are able to till their fields and local officials can drive to and from the provincial capital Lashkar Gah, whereas until a few months ago they could only travel by military helicopter.