Amid talks with U.S., Taliban declares start of spring offensive

Fighters with Afghanistan's Taliban militia stand with their weapons in Ahmad Aba district in 2017

Qais Mangal, a spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defence, dismissed the Taliban's spring offensive as "mere propaganda".

The statement says that by announcing offensives, the Taliban has often targeted "innocent people in Afghanistan" while they have been dictated by "strangers" and that they have used civilian houses as a shield.

He said "Through this announcement, Taliban leaders demonstrate their indifference to the demands of Afghans across the country".

Trump has previously been on record expressing his wish to end the war that hit the Central Asian nation in 2001 and transformed into one of the most prolonged conflicts in USA history.

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".

The Taliban, who effectively control almost half the country, have continued to carry out daily attacks on Afghan security forces despite holding several rounds of talks with the United States aimed at ending the 17-year war.

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

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

The Taliban have long refused to speak officially with Kabul, dubbing the government a "puppet" of the West, and the militants have insisted that government officials are attending only in a "personal capacity".

About 60 militants, according to security officials, have been killed in the southern provinces of Helmand, Kandahar, eastern Nangarhar and Paktika provinces, the northern Samangan and Badakhshan provinces since Friday.

Afghan security forces have suffered the brunt of losses, with more than 45,000 killed since 2014.

After almost 18 years of war, the United States is trying to forge a settlement with the Taliban, and President Donald Trump is impatient for some sort of resolution.

The spring offensive traditionally marks the start of the so-called fighting season, though fighting nowadays continues unabated throughout the year. "We assemble the Resolute Support leadership together and Gen. Miller said the Taliban have made it clear that they have ignored the will of the people and have guaranteed more violence", Butler said. Everyone at the Taliban's office in Qatar is removed from the list, and indications are everyone else involved in U.S. talks has been as well.

"Taliban peace interlocutors" names have been removed from the UN Security Council black list for nine months, the group's spokesman claimed on Friday.



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