Taliban claim attack as spring offensive begins

15 April, 2019, 13:26 | Author: Wade Massey
  • Security forces guard a military convoy near Kandahar Afghanistan. The Taliban said Friday it's planning a spring offensive as a response to a similar plan by the Kabul government. File

The Taliban group announced its annual spring offensive on Friday and since then has launched series of attacks against government interests in the militancy-battered country, officials confirmed.

"The Afghan government is ready to defend every corner of the country but it once again calls on the Taliban leadership to stop the illegitimate and imposed war and nod to the unconditional invitation of the Afghan government and people for peace talks", the statement concluded.

Hours after the Taliban announced their so-called spring offensive, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, who has held five rounds of talks with Taliban members, said the announcement is "reckless" and is "indifference" to the demands of Afghans for peace.

No such drawdown has happened yet and the United States still has about 14,000 troops in the country, almost 18 years after the US-led invasion to topple the Taliban.

The Taliban also called on fighters to avoid civilian deaths in their attacks.

"Our jihadi obligation has not yet ended", the Taliban said.

A local health official said more than 70 dead and wounded had been brought into the main city hospital.

Nangarhar Gov. Shahmahmood Miakhel said Afghan forces repelled the attack after reinforcements arrived. "The Afghan and world religious scholars have clearly said that the war in Afghanistan has no religious legitimacy and its continuance has no legitimate judgment".

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"We also want to clarify that we are committed to the ongoing negotiations process and a peaceful resolution but can not remain indifferent to the military operations and ongoing crimes of the invaders and their internal supporters", Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.

The militant group, according to the statement, launched multi-pronged offensive with two vehicle bombs followed by gunfight on Friday night to capture Shirzad district in Nangarhar province, but the security forces' sharp reaction forced the insurgents to retreat.

Qais Mangal, a spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defence, dismissed the Taliban's spring offensive as "mere propaganda".

The Taliban controls or contests about half of Afghan territory, according to USA military assessments.

In the northern Baghlan province, the Taliban killed seven police and wounded eight in an attack on checkpoints late Friday, said Safder Mohsini, head of the provincial council.

The Taliban has long refused to speak officially with Kabul, dubbing the government a "puppet" of the West, and the group has insisted that government officials are attending only in a "personal capacity".

The US still has some 14,000 troops in the country, with US President Donald Trump so far failing to follow through on pledges to reduce their numbers.

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