Taliban Launch Multi-Pronged Attack on Northern Afghan City

Security forces guard a military convoy near Kandahar Afghanistan. The Taliban said Friday it's planning a spring offensive as a response to a similar plan by the Kabul government. File

Security forces guard a military convoy near Kandahar Afghanistan. The Taliban said Friday it's planning a spring offensive as a response to a similar plan by the Kabul government. File

"It is irresponsible to suggest that an increase in violence is warranted because the government announced a security plan", he said in a tweet.

The statement says that the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces have been clearly directed to take their measures based on the principle of defending the country's sovereignty and honor.

The Ministry of Defense in a statement said the offensive has been announced by the Quetta Shura, Taliban's leadership council, and that by making such an announcement, the group wants to give morale to its fighters after "facing many defeats". "If executed, it will only yield more suffering and thousands more causalities".

According to US estimates, government forces control just over half the country, but with many areas out of reach of easy communications an accurate picture is hard.

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

U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad on Saturday urged all Afghans, including the Taliban, to work on a roadmap to end the Afghan war this year.

"The U.S. and our worldwide partners will stand with Afghan security forces to continue our effort to end the war in Afghanistan, at the same time as we seek to bring parties to the table to negotiate peace", Khalilzad tweeted late Friday.

"The killing of Afghans must stop". "All sides must end unnecessary violence, and instead engage in Intra-Afghan dialogue which leads to negotiations on a political settlement and a roadmap to end the war this year".

The statement clarifies that the Afghan government has not announced operations but it has removed all the barriers on the way of peace.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement the movement was committed to the peace process but accused Afghan and global forces of stepping up their own operations. "We ask they join us and choose the #Peace over violence". "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.

Fed up with the $45 billion annual price tag and what his military leaders termed a "stalemate", US President Donald Trump past year chose to slash the number of American soldiers in Afghanistan.

"Clashes are ongoing between (Afghan security forces) and Taliban terrorists".

The assault came hours after the Taliban announced the start of Operation Fath, the name the group has given to this year's spring offensive. The goal of the Taliban's Operation Fath - "victory" in Arabic - is to cleanse Afghanistan from invasion and corruption, the movement reportedly said.

"Our jihadi obligation has not yet ended", the Taliban said.

In a series of tweets released hours after the Taliban announced a new spring offensive, the U.S. chief peace negotiator also urged Pakistan and Qatar to condemn the Taliban's announcement, arguing that an increase in violence will only hurt the peace process that these two states were backing.

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