Taliban declare start of spring offensive amid talks with US

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KABUL (AFGHANISTAN): The Taliban introduced on Friday the beginning of their spring offensive regardless of speaking peace with america and forward of a big gathering of Afghans meant to debate resolutions to the protracted struggle and an eventual withdrawal of American troops from the nation.
The insurgents launched a prolonged missive in 5 languages, together with English, saying the preventing would proceed whereas overseas forces stay in Afghanistan.
The announcement is one thing the militant group does yearly, although Taliban assaults by no means actually ceased in the course of the harsh winter months. The insurgents perform every day assaults concentrating on Afghan safety forces and Nato troops, and inflicting staggering casualties, together with amongst civilians. Most just lately, a Taliban assault close to the primary US air base in Afghanistan killed three Marines on Monday.
The Taliban now maintain sway over half the nation after a relentless 17-year conflict, America's longest.
Friday's announcement instructs the Taliban mujahedeen, or holy warriors, to "launch jihadi operations with sincerity and pure intentions," strictly abiding by the Taliban command construction. It additionally urges fighters to keep away from civilian casualties.
The UN's annual report earlier this yr stated civilian deaths hit a document excessive final yr, blaming the insurgents and different militants, such because the Islamic State group, although it additionally famous an uptick in civilian casualties from US bombing raids, most frequently in assist of Afghan troops on the bottom.
Nonetheless, preparations are underway for Afghan-to-Afghan talks beginning subsequent week in Qatar, the place the Taliban have a political workplace.
In Kabul, the Afghan High Peace Council, a authorities physique created years in the past to speak peace with anti-government forces, condemned the Taliban announcement, saying it introduced into query the insurgents sincerity in looking for a peaceable finish to the conflict.
Atta-u-Rahman Saleim, a council deputy, informed The Associated Press over the telephone that it undermines the credibility of the Taliban.
"They're insisting on conflict," he stated. "We will see this every single day."
US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who has escalated efforts to discover a peaceable finish to the struggle since his appointment final yr, has been urging the Taliban to simply accept a cease-fire and maintain talks instantly with the Kabul authorities, one thing the insurgents refuse to do. The Taliban, who see the Afghan authorities as a US puppet, say they may speak to Kabul officers on the upcoming Qatar assembly solely as "bizarre Afghans" and never as authorities representatives.
In the meantime, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid informed the AP on Friday that the insurgents banned the Worldwide Committee of the Pink Cross and the World Health Organization from working in territory underneath their management. That is the second time prior to now yr the insurgents have barred Purple Cross staff.
Robin Waubo, a Pink Cross official in Kabul, stated the group was placing its actions "on maintain" till its representatives can meet with the Taliban to resolve the difficulty.
"We're going to have a dialogue with them with a view to attempt to start our work once more," Waubo stated, warning that hundreds of displaced individuals can be adversely affected by the Taliban determination.
"It's a huge difficulty for us as a result of we've got to cease working," he stated.
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