Global Independent Analytics

Afghan Taliban Announce Spring Offensive

The Islamist movement vows to take more territory and launch large-scale attacks

Margherita Stancati for The Wall Street Journal reports: Taliban’s announcement of their spring offensive occurs just days after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited the capital Kabul to reaffirm U.S. support for the government led by President Ashraf Ghani.

The Islamist movement usually begins its jihad operations backed by suicide and guerilla attacks with the onset of spring, when the mountain passes get cleared from snow, making it easier for combat groups invade many parts of the country. This year’s offensive is going to commemorate the Taliban leader Mulah Mohammad Omari’s death, which occurred two years ago.

“With the advent of spring it is again time for us to renew our jihadist determination and operations,” read the Taliban statement, saying fresh military operations would “employ all means at our disposal to bog the enemy down in a war of attrition.” It was estimated that now the Taliban forces are stronger than ever since they were hit by U.S.-backed forces in 2001.

Back then, a U.S.-led invasion has stripped the Taliban of most of its power, and while the U.S. mission was formally discontinued, some 13,000 U.S. and NATO forces still remain in Afghanistan, and the U.S. is scheduled to draw down its troops from 9,800 to 5,500 by the end of the year.

Afghan Defense Ministry in their turn announced that a counter-offensive will be launched in order to overthrow the Taliban forces. “They won't succeed, and we will bring peace to our people,” said the spokesman, Mohammad Radmanish. How far will escalate the fighting yet remains to be seen, but the Afghan administration have stated that they expect a very tough combat this year. U.S. embassy in Afghanistan has already issued an emergency warning to U.S. citizens calling for a higher level of security.

However, along with the offensive, Taliban plan to resume peace talks that have nevertheless failed the year before: in order to establish a unified Islamic government a four-country group, comprising Afghanistan, the U.S., China, and Pakistan is anticipated to restart direct peace negotiations between the rival countries.

“Fighting between the Afghan government and the Taliban is now in its 15th year, and the violence shows no sign of abating. The United Nations said 11,000 civilians were wounded or killed in 2015, a record high. An estimated 5,500 Afghan government troops and police also were killed last year,” continues Stancati.

The U.S. involvement in the conflict, though, remains to be reviewed since Afghanistan’s military behavior is rather unpredictable. Moreover, the reduction of the number of the U.S. troops would mean that most of the training and assistant operation will be terminated which would leave already struggling with heavy casualties and high desertion rates and short of air power, transport and logistical support Afghanistan, fighting mainly alone.

“The Taliban also face a challenge from the local branch of Islamic State, a rival for territory. The two jihadist groups have clashed repeatedly in parts of eastern Afghanistan, where Islamic State has established a small but significant presence,” assumes Stancati.

 

By Stefan Paraber for GIA.

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