The Afghan Taliban announced on Friday the launch of their annual fighting season to “cleanse their country of foreign aggressors and other corrupt elements.”
The announcement by the Leadership Council of the self-styled Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan comes a week after one of the most devastating attacks on Afghan forces since the Taliban were driven from power more than 15 years ago.
That attack, by a group of around 10 suicide bombers, killed at least 135 Afghan soldiers on a base in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, according to official figures although the actual toll is believed to be as much as double that number.
According to Taliban spokesperson Qari Muhammad Yousaf Ahmadi, this year’s Spring Offensive has been named after their slain chief Mullah Akhtar Mansoor.
Mullah Mansoor was killed in a US drone strike while travelling in a car in Balochistan in May 2016. Mansoor’s death scuttled Pakistan’s efforts to bring the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table to put out the deadly insurgency in Afghanistan.
The Spring Offensive has been named ‘Operation Mansouri’ because, according to Ahmadi, under the leadership of Mullah Mansoor the Taliban have “gained various decisive victories… humiliated various foreign powers, compelling them to leave our land, and achieved copious other proud milestones”.
Ahmadi claimed that the 15-year-long ‘jihad’ of the Taliban have inflicted heavy casualties on foreign forces, forcing a ‘large number’ of them to withdraw from Afghanistan. However some members in the US-led coalition were insisting on continued occupation of Afghanistan.
According to US estimates, Afghan security forces, which have suffered thousands of casualties, control less than 60 per cent of the country, although the insurgents have so far been unable to capture any major provincial centres.
In Friday’s statement, the Taliban spokesperson said government forces would be “targeted, harassed, killed, or captured”, although it promised to minimise civilian casualties.
“The main focus of Operation Mansouri will be on foreign forces, their military and intelligence infrastructure and in eliminating their internal mercenary apparatus,” it said. Operations would include “conventional attacks, guerrilla warfare, complex martyrdom attacks, insider attacks, and use of IEDs”.