Taliban announce start of spring offensive in Afghanistan
By James Mackenzie
KABUL (Reuters) - The Taliban announced the start of their spring offensive on Tuesday, pledging to launch large-scale offensives against government strongholds backed by suicide and guerrilla attacks to drive Afghanistan's Western-backed government from power.
The announcement of the start of "Operation Omari", named after the late Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar, came just days after Secretary of State John Kerry visited Kabul and reaffirmed U.S. support for a national unity government led by President Ashraf Ghani.
"Jihad against the aggressive and usurping infidel army is a holy obligation upon our necks and our only recourse for re-establishing an Islamic system and regaining our independence," the Taliban said in a statement.
The insurgency has gained strength since the withdrawal of international troops from combat at the end of 2014 and the Taliban are stronger than at any point since they were driven from power by U.S.-backed forces in 2001.
As well as suicide and tactical attacks, the offensive would include assassinations of "enemy" commanders in urban centres, the Taliban said.
"The present operation will also employ all means at our disposal to bog the enemy down in a war of attrition that lowers the morale of the foreign invaders and their internal armed militias," they said.
In line with recent statements, the militants also said they would establish good governance in areas they controlled and avoid civilian casualties and damage to infrastructure.
The seasons have long shaped violence in Afghanistan with fighting easing off in the winter, when mountain passes get snowed in, and picking up again in the spring and summer. Continued...