Taliban announce beginning of spring offensive in Afghanistan
KABUL THE Taliban on Saturday announced the beginning of their spring military offensive against the US-led coalition, a day after a new Pentagon report claimed that the militants’ fighting spirit was low after sustaining heavy losses on the battlefield.
In a two-page statement, the Taliban said that beginning on Sunday they would launch attacks on military bases, convoys and Afghan officials, including members of the government’s peace council, who are working to reconcile with top insurgent leaders.
“The war in our country will not come to an end unless and until the foreign invading forces pull out of Afghanistan,” said the announcement released by the leadership council of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, which is what the Taliban calls itself.
Senior officers with the USled coalition said on Friday that the Taliban‚ aided by the Al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network‚ have plans to conduct a brief series of high-profile attacks, such as suicide bombings, across the country in a display of power as fighting gears up with the warmer weather.
The senior officers spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss recent intelligence that lead to the assessment.
Lieutenant Colonel John Dorrian, a spokesman for the coalition, said the Taliban planned to use the spate of violence as a “propaganda ploy” to try to demonstrate their relevance and create the perception of momentum despite recent setbacks.
NATO claims the insurgents have suffered a number of setbacks in recent months, losing weapons caches, being pushed out of their traditional strongholds, and suffering the loss of thousands of insurgent fighters and field commanders.
In Brussels, a NATO official said international forces had already tightened security due to the threat.
They anticipated increased use of assassinations, spectacular attacks, and claims of infiltration, said the official who could not be named in line with standing regulations.
The Pentagon report said the insurgents’ momentum had been “broadly arrested” and their morale had begun to erode.
Hundreds of insurgent leaders have been killed or captured and since last July, 700 former Taliban have officially reintegrated into Afghan society and another 2,000 insurgents are in various stages of the process, the report said.
The Taliban, known for their resiliency, said insurgents will target “foreign invading forces, members of their spy networks and other spies, highranking officials of the Kabul puppet administration ... and heads of foreign and local companies working for the enemy and contractors.” The Taliban ordered its fighters to pay “strict attention” to protecting civilians during the spring offensive.
A recent UN report said about three-quarters of the estimated 2,777 civilians killed in Afghanistan last year died at the hands of insurgents, not international forces.
Also on Saturday, the coalition released initial findings of the April 27 attack at the Kabul airport where a veteran Afghan military pilot opened fire, killing eight US troops and an American civilian contractor who had been training the nascent Afghan air force.