Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan have announced the start of their spring fighting season despite ongoing peace pushes. The declaration is largely symbolic, as their deadly attacks have continued through the winter.
The Taliban on Friday announced the opening of their annual spring offensive, saying they would continue fighting as long as foreign forces remained in Afghanistan.
A Taliban statement said the objective of the "Al-Fath" ("Victory") operation was that of "eradicating occupation, cleansing our Muslim homeland from invasion and corruption, establishing an Islamic system along with defending and serving our believing fellow countrymen."
"Even as large parts of our homeland have been freed from the enemy, yet the foreign occupying forces continue exercising military and political influence in our Islamic country," the multilanguage statement said.
Still unfruitful talks
Friday's announcement was largely symbolic in character, as the insurgents have been carrying out daily attacks throughout the winter on Afghan security forces and NATO troops.
It comes as Washington has been holding several rounds of talks with the Taliban to put an end to 17 years of violence, the longest war ever waged by the US. Preparations are also underway for a new round of talks between Afghan political leaders and the Taliban in the Qatari capital, Doha.
The Taliban ruled some three-quarters of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, before being ousted in a US-led invasion. After years of insurgency, it now controls half of the country once more, mostly rural areas.
The US still has some 14,000 troops in the country, with US President Donald Trump so far failing to follow through on pledges to reduce their numbers.
Read more: Why a US-Taliban agreement is likely
High civilian death toll
The Taliban also called on fighters to avoid civilian deaths in their attacks.
Despite the group's frequently made claim that it does not kill civilians in its attacks, the UN's annual report earlier this year said civilian deaths in violence reached record levels last year. The report, however, put the blame not only on the Taliban and other militants, but also on US bombing raids, which most often aimed to assist Afghan troops on the ground.
tj/ng (AFP, AP, Reuters)