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Afghan Taliban announce start of ‘spring offensive’

KABUL: The Afghan Taliban announced Tuesday the start of their “spring offensive” even as the government in Kabul tries to bring the insurgents back to the negotiating table to end their drawn-out conflict.

The Taliban said in a statement they would “employ large-scale attacks on enemy positions across the country” during the offensive they have dubbed “Operation Omari” in honour of the movement’s late founder Mullah Omar, whose death was announced last year.

The annual spring offensive normally marks the start of the “fighting season”, though this winter they continued to battle government forces without a seasonal break for the first time.

The statement promised “martyrdom-seeking and tactical attacks against enemy strongholds”, a reference to suicide bombings — a strategy the group has long resorted to against its enemies the Afghan police and army, whom they view as “stooges” of the West.

On Monday, 12 fresh recruits were killed in one such attack in the country’s east.

The Islamists, who have been waging an insurgency since being toppled from power in 2001, also promised attacks on the 13,000 NATO troops currently stationed in the country, officially on a training and advisory mission.

“By employing such a multifaceted strategy it is hoped that the foreign enemy will be demoralised and forced to evict our nation,” they said.

The Taliban have made the departure of all foreign forces a precondition to the resumption of direct peace talks with Kabul, which began last summer in Pakistan but ended abruptly after it was revealed that Mullah Omar had been dead for two years.

 

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