Afghan Taliban announces start of ‘spring offensive’

The Afghan Taliban have said their annual “spring offensive” will begin on Friday, vowing nationwide attacks in what is expected to be the bloodiest fighting season in a decade as Nato forces pull back from the frontlines.

This year’s offensive marks the first fighting season in which Afghan forces will battle the insurgents without the full support of US-led foreign combat troops.

The militants have already stepped up attacks on government and foreign targets in recent weeks, taking a heavy toll on civilians and Afghan security forces.

“The Islamic Emirate is going to launch the spring operations under the inspirational name of ‘Azm’ [Determination] at 5am on 24th April 2015,” the Taliban said on Wednesday, using their official name.

“The main targets of these operations … will be the foreign occupiers, especially their permanent military bases … officials of the stooge regime, their military constellations, especially their intelligence, interior ministry and defence ministry officials.”


Nato’s combat mission ended formally in December, but a small follow-up foreign force has stayed on to train and support local security personnel.

Continued US presence
US President Barack Obama last month backpedalled on plans to shrink the US force in Afghanistan this year by nearly half, agreeing to keep the current level of 9 800 US troops until the end of 2015.

The Taliban, who have waged a deadly insurgency since they were ousted from power in late 2001, said the announcement would damage any prospect of peace talks as they vowed to continue fighting.

Aside from the Taliban, the Afghan government has warned repeatedly of the Islamic State (Isis) group making inroads into the country.

President Ashraf Ghani blamed Isis for a suicide attack on Saturday April 18 in the eastern city of Jalalabad that killed 33 people and wounded more than 100 others. If verified, that would mark the first major attack by the jihadists in the country.

Cabinet appointments
On Saturday, after months of stalemate, Afghanistan’s new government announced appointees to fill every remaining post in Cabinet – save the crucial one of defence minister.

The delay over the appointment has sparked fierce public criticism, with many blaming the recent uptick in deadly insurgent attacks on the leadership vacuum.

The upsurge in attacks has taken a heavy toll on ordinary Afghans.

The number of civilians killed and wounded jumped by 22% in 2014 compared with the previous year, according to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (Unama).

And in the first three months of 2015, civilian casualties from ground fighting were up by 8% on the same period last year, a new Unama report said.

‘Top priority’
But the Taliban said their “top priority will be given to safeguard and protect the lives and properties of the civilian people” during the offensive.

The Afghan government has yet to respond to the Taliban’s announcement.

In a brief Twitter posting, Resolute Support, the new name for the Nato mission in Afghanistan, said:

That sentiment was echoed by Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, the government body in charge of leading peace efforts with the Taliban.

“Evading talks and continuing war will not solve Afghan people’s problems,” it said in a statement that coincided with the Taliban announcement.

“The people favour peace and want to know the stance of the insurgents as soon as possible. We hope the warring sides use this historic opportunity to decide responsibly.” – AFP

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Advertising

Municipality won’t remove former mayor, despite home affairs demands

The department is fighting with a small Free State town, which it accuses of continuing to employ an illegal immigrant

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde tests positive for coronavirus

Alan Winde admits he is in a vulnerable group when it comes to contracting the virus, considering he is 55 years old, and a diabetic

Eskom refers employees suspected of contracts graft for criminal investigations

The struggling power utility has updated Parliament on investigations into contracts where more than R4-billion was lost in overpayments
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday