Taliban declares 'spring offensive'

May 1, 2011 - 0:0

The Taliban has announced the launch of a spring offensive against foreign troops in Afghanistan as well as Afghan security forces and government officials.

Saturday's declaration comes a day after high-ranking U.S. military officers predicted such a move from the group.
Dubbed the “Badar” offensive, the fresh onslaught “will target foreign forces, high-ranking officials of President Hamid Karzai's government, members of the cabinet and lawmakers, as well as the heads of foreign and local companies working for the NATO-led coalition,” the Taliban said in a statement.
The statement warned Afghan citizens to stay away from public locations that could be targeted as part of Badar, “so that they will not become harmed during attacks of Mujahideen against the enemy”.
“Operations will focus on attacks against military centers, places of gatherings, airbases, ammunition and logistical military convoys of the foreign invaders in all parts of the country,” the statement said.
Senior U.S. officers and western diplomats said they recently obtained credible intelligence showing that the Taliban -- with the support of the al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani network -- plans to conduct a series of high-profile attacks such as suicide bombings, the Associated Press reported.
A Pentagon report, released on Friday, painted a more positive picture of the situation on the ground saying that the U.S.-led coalition has made “tangible progress”.
The officers, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence, said most action was expected in the east because the harvest of opium poppies, which bankrolls the insurgency, is still under way in the south and southwest.
They said the coalition made the assessment in the past couple of days after analyzing a wide body of credible and specific human intelligence and intercepted communications, information from interrogations of captured insurgents and in collaboration with Afghan officials.
“They want to demonstrate their relevance to regain momentum,” said Lt. Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for the coalition. “We see this as a propaganda ploy.
They want to demonstrate that they are relevant despite recent setbacks.” A Pentagon report released Friday said the U.S.-led coalition has made “tangible progress,” but that difficult challenges remain, including a shortage of military trainers and border patrols and slow political and governance development, which could threaten the progress made in the past six months.
The report echoed senior military commanders' predictions of a tough spring fighting season and showed spikes in violence in the east and southwest regions where troops have been engaged in fierce battles with insurgents.
“There will be difficult fighting and tough losses as the enemy tries to regain momentum and key areas lost in the past six months,” the report said.
Last week eight U.S. soldiers and a contractor were killed after an Afghan army officer opened fired at the air force headquarters in Kabul airport.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, though authorities could not confirm its involvement.
A spokesman for the group told Al Jazeera that one of its members had been serving in the army for a long time with the aim of killing foreign forces and finally got the chance.