The Taliban announced on Friday the start of their spring offensive despite talking peace with the United States and ahead of a significant gathering of Afghans meant to discuss resolutions to the protracted war and an eventual withdrawal of American troops from the country.
The insurgents released a lengthy missive in five languages, including English, saying the fighting would continue while foreign forces remain in Afghanistan.
The announcement is something the militant group does every year, even though Taliban attacks never really ceased during the harsh winter months. The insurgents carry out daily attacks targeting Afghan security forces and NATO troops, and inflicting staggering casualties, including among civilians. Most recently, a Taliban attack near the main U.S. air base in Afghanistan killed three Marines on Monday.
The Taliban now hold sway over half the country after a relentless 17-year war, America’s longest.
Friday’s announcement instructs the Taliban mujahideen, or holy warriors, to “launch jihadi operations with sincerity and pure intentions,” strictly abiding by the Taliban command structure. It also urges fighters to avoid civilian casualties.
In Kabul, the Afghan High Peace Council, a government body created years ago to talk peace with anti-government forces, condemned the Taliban announcement, saying it brought into question the insurgents’ sincerity in seeking a peaceful end to the war.
Atta-u-Rahman Saleim, a council deputy, told over the phone that it undermines the credibility of the Taliban. “They are insisting on war,” he said. “We can see this every day.”