Taliban launches spring offensive in Afghanistan

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KABUL (TCA) — Afghanistan’s Taliban has announced the start of their spring offensive, promising to target military assaults on U.S.-led coalition and Afghan security forces, RFE/RL reports.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid in an e-mailed statement on April 28 boasted that the militant group now controls more than half of the country, citing a U.S. report in February that said the Afghan government controls only 52 percent of Afghanistan’s 407 districts.

This year’s offensive was named Operation Mansouri after the Taliban leader killed last year in a U.S. drone strike.

“Mansouri Operations will differ from previous ones in nature and will be conducted with a twin-tracked political and military approach,” Mujahid said, explaining that the Taliban will begin building institutions in areas under their control, establishing what he called “social justice and development” mechanisms.

Apparently foreshadowing the spring offensive, a Taliban attack earlier this week on an army base in northern Afghanistan was among the most devastating ever in the country, killing more than 140 Afghan soldiers.

In the meantime, the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan has said that the United States’ new administration’s strategy for Afghanistan has not been finalized, but that U.S officials are considering a further deployment of between 3,000 and 5,000 additional troops in the country, TOLOnews agency reported.

“General (John) Nicholson has made his recommendations to his chain of command and that is currently being discussed in Washington. We think it is reasonable to expect a decision from them sometime in the next month or so,” said Captain Bill Salvin, spokesman for Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan.

“The Taliban is also as you mentioned a very dangerous threat in Afghanistan and we are constantly supporting our Afghan partners in their battles against the Taliban. But again let me stress the most important thing for the government of Afghanistan and for the Taliban would be to come to a negotiated settlement, a form of reconciliation with the Taliban,” he added.

Resolute Support said unlike former U.S president Barack Obama’s administration, the new administration would refrain from specifying a deadline for the withdrawal of its forces from Afghanistan.

“Ultimately that will be decided in Washington what General Nicholson has asked for is a few thousands more troops so he can conduct his train, advise and assist mission below the core level and below the police zone level. So we essentially can train more people simultaneously and ultimately help meet the four-year road-map that president Ghani has laid out,” Salvin added.

Sergey Kwan

TCA