ISLAMABAD: In what is seen as a major setback for the diplomatic efforts to push for the reconciliation process in the war-torn country, Afghan Taliban on Tuesday launched the much-anticipated annual ‘Spring Offensive’ across Afghanistan.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Taliban leadership council said the offensive – codenamed ‘Omar Operations’ – was started at 5 am. The operations were named after the Taliban movement’s founder, Mullah Muhammad Omar, whose death was confirmed in July last year.
The Taliban announced the operations after they rejected last month the offer by a quadrilateral group – comprising Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the United States – to engage in dialogue with Kabul administration. The four-way process was started in December and had invited the Taliban groups to join the peace negotiations by the first week of March in Pakistan.
The Taliban announced the campaign a day after a suicide bomber killed and injured scores of new security recruits in the eastern Nangarhar province.
The council said the operation will result into “strategic victories and cleanse the country from the presence of the remaining foreign invaders and their malignant and corrupt rebel servants.”
It is widely believed that increase in the Taliban violence could further complicate efforts for the peace and reconciliation in the war-torn country. International players and Afghan leaders are deeply concerned at the possible intensification of fighting this year. In a series of meetings in Islamabad and Kabul, senior diplomats of the member countries had agreed to take action against the irreconcilable groups. Afghan leaders are now urging the group to pursue the second option.
The Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said last week the four-nation group is likely to meet this month to review the fast emerging situation following the Taliban rejection of the peace talks.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 13th, 2016.