Taliban claim attack as spring offensive begins

Clay Curtis
April 15, 2019

Taliban massive offensive to capture Shirzad district in the eastern Nangarhar province has been repulsed and the militant group fled away after leaving 27 bodies behind, said a statement of the provincial government released on Saturday.

However, the Afghan Defence Ministry termed Taliban newly launched offensive as mere propaganda to boost morale of its fighters to continue useless insurgency in the conflict-plagued country.

He said the call for more fighting will not advance peace efforts and that "if executed, it will only yield more suffering and thousands more causalities".

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

Peace talks with the Taliban kicked off past year, as US President Donald Trump vowed to reduce the number of US troops in Afghanistan.

Taliban, in a statement on Friday, said: "Operation Fath, which means victory in Arabic, will be conducted across Afghanistan with the aim of eradicating occupation and cleansing our Muslim homeland from invasion and corruption".

The Taliban on Friday announced a new spring offensive, alarming the U.S. negotiator who has been sitting with the militants to seek an end to more than 17 years of war.

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Las year saw the Taliban entered landmark face-to-face talks for peace with the USA, but the Kabul government has yet to be made part of these talks.

It comes as Washington has been holding several rounds of talks with the Taliban to put an end to 17 years of violence, the longest war ever waged by the US.

The Taliban, who frequently exaggerate numbers, claimed to have killed or wounded "more than 200 soldiers, police and militias". "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".

Many Afghans are anxious that in America's push for a settlement, concerns for human rights and democracy will ultimately be cast aside and the Taliban will return to power and reimpose their extreme version of Sharia law.

"We are committed to the ongoing process of negotiation and peaceful resolution, but we can not be unmoved in the face of military operations and the terrorist wave of occupiers and mercenaries", Khalilzad said.

The spring offensive traditionally marks the start of the so-called fighting season, though in reality fighting in recent winters has continued unabated.

The United Nations last week said it had lifted travel bans for 11 Taliban delegates, including Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a cofounder of the Islamist movement and its top political leader, as well as Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, the Taliban's former deputy minister of foreign affairs.

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