Taliban Announce Spring Offensive In Afghanistan

Members of the Taliban gather at the site of the execution of three men accused of murdering a couple during a robbery in Ghazni province Afghanistan

With "Operation Mansouri", named after the Taliban leader killed in a 2016 USA drone strike, the Taliban apparently were looking to regain lost ground.

The annual spring offensive normally marks the start of the "fighting season", though this winter the lull was shorter and the Taliban continued to battle government forces.

The US now has around 8,400 troops in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led Resolute Support training and advisory mission, as well as a separate counterterrorism mission that mainly targets ISIS and al-Qaeda fighters.

Afghan security forces take part in an ongoing operation against Islamic State (IS) militants in the Achin district of Afghanistan's Nangarhar province on April 14, 2017.

United States forces in Afghanistan said in a statement that a third USA service member was wounded in the raid, carried out with Afghan National Defense and Security Forces against the militants. Authorities have arrested at least 35 soldiers over the incident so far, ranked from foot soldier to colonel.

Last Friday's Taleban assault on the military base fuelled fears over insider attacks - when Afghan soldiers and police turn their guns on their colleagues or on worldwide troops - have been a major problem during the war.

The United States is sending an additional 1,500 Army soldiers to Afghanistan this summer to support Operation Freedom's Sentinel, the current USA campaign in the country.

Three attackers then detonated suicide vests while others used guns and grenades in the deadliest attack on armed forces in the country since 2001.




The start of the spring offensive was announced by Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid on Friday in an email statement.

UNAMA documented a 54 percent increase in conflict-related deaths of women and a 17 percent rise in child fatalities compared to the same period previous year.

"I believe this will be a hard year for Afghan security forces, as they will be facing the resilient Taliban's complex and sophisticated attacks countrywide", he told AFP.

Western instructors, likely German and American, were on the 30,000-strong base outside Mazar when it was attacked, but were not involved in repelling the assault, security sources have told AFP.

The Islamic State's offshoot in Afghanistan, known as the Sunni jihadist group's so-called Khorasan Province, is suspected of carrying out several attacks on minority Shia Muslim targets.

US defence secretary James Mattis, who warned of "another tough year" in 2017, and national security advisor H.R. McMaster both visited Afghanistan this month as US President Donald Trump's new administration works on developing a strategy for the region.

The attack triggered global shockwaves, with some condemning the use of Afghanistan as what they called a testing ground for the weapon, and against a militant group that is not considered as big a threat as the resurgent Taliban.

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