Taliban launch attacks as they start Afghan spring offensive | News | DW | 13.04.2019
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Taliban launch attacks as they start Afghan spring offensive

The Taliban attacked government-controlled locations across the country to mark the beginning of their Operation Fath spring offensive. The militant group said it was committed to a "peaceful resolution."

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Afghanistan: The psychological legacy of war

Taliban forces launched a series of attacks across Afghanistan on Saturday, marking a bloody start to their annual spring offensive.

The attacks have dashed hopes of a quick peace agreement at peace talks with the United States later this month.

What you need to know:

  • Security officials said there were attacks in 15 provinces.
  • In the capital, Kabul, Taliban fighters targeted a police station. They also carried out a grenade attack on a military vehicle that killed at least one person and injured six others.
  • Outside the northern town of Kunduz, a strike killed at least eight people and injured 62.
  • In the western Ghor province, at least seven members of the Afghan security forces died in an ambush.
  • In the eastern district of Shirzad, the Taliban claimed a truck bomb killed or wounded "more than 200 soldiers, police and militias." Officials said two Afghan soldiers and 27 Taliban fighters had died.
  • There were multiple attacks in the opium-rich province of Helmand and in the northern provinces of Baghlan, Takhar, Badakhshan, Faryab and Sar-e Pul.

Taliban 'committed' to peace

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's palace condemned the spring offensive, dubbed Operation Fath by Taliban militants, "in the strongest words."

"The continuation of war is in no one's interest," the palace said.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement: "We are committed to the ongoing process of negotiation and peaceful resolution, but we cannot be unmoved in the face of military operations and the terrorist wave of occupiers and mercenaries," blaming Afghan and international forces.

US special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad described the attacks as "reckless."

Read more: Afghanistan: Can peace prevail?

Sign of the times: Most of the attacks were relatively minor. Yet their geographic spread and level of coordination underline the difficulty facing the government as it tries to maintain its grip on the country. Insurgents control roughly half of Afghanistan's territory.

Kunduz's importance: Taliban militants briefly captured Kunduz in 2015, marking their first conquest of a major city since they were ousted in 2001. The northern town lies at a strategic crossroads in a major agricultural region with easy access to Kabul.

What is Operation Fath? The annual spring offensive marks the traditional start of the fighting season, though the Taliban have been carrying out near-daily attacks for most of the year.

Read more: Is Germany reassessing its role in Afghanistan?

State of the peace talks: Roughly 18 years after invading Afghanistan, the US has been trying to forge a peace deal with the Taliban. US officials have met several times with Taliban leaders, and more meetings are expected in Doha later this month. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani wants to send a delegation to "exchange views," but the government is effectively locked out of the talks because the Taliban refuse to talk to what they consider a puppet regime.

aw/amp (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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