Thursday, May 3, 2012

Taliban announce start of Al Farooq spring offensive

Today the Taliban announced the beginning of their yearly spring offensive, in an official statement released on their propaganda website, Voice of Jihad.

The Taliban statement, which was released in English and other languages, said that the "Al Farooq Jihadi spring operation" offensive will begin on May 3, and will target foreign and Afghan security forces, Afghan political and government officials, the Afghan High Peace Council, and anti-Taliban militias. The statement is attributed to "The Leadership Council of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan," which is better known as the Quetta Shura.

"It must be stated that the primary target of Al-Farooq operation will be the foreign invaders, their advisors, their contractors and members of all associated military, intelligence and auxiliary departments," the Taliban announcement said.

"And similarly, the high ranking officials of the stooge Kabul regime; members of Parliament; those associated with Ministries of Defense, Intelligence and Interior; members of the so called High Peace Council; Militia under the name of 'Arbaki' and all those people who work against the Mujahideen, toil to pave ground for the occupation of Afghanistan and become the cause for the strength of the invaders will also be targeted in Al-Farooq operation," the statement continued.

The Taliban claimed they will employ "new and tested war tactics," and that "top priority will be given to safeguarding the lives and wealth of civilians."

"It is hoped that civilians stay away from the bases of invaders and their hirelings, their military convoys and refrain from going close to explosion sites as the enemy intentionally targets civilians to avenge the caused death/injury and attributes it to the Taliban," the statement said.

Despite the Taliban's claim that they seek to protect civilians, the Taliban continue to cause the vast majority of civilian casualties. According to statistics compiled by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and released in February, the Taliban were responsible for nearly 77 percent of the civilian deaths in the country in 2011, while Coalition and Afghan forces were responsible for just 14 percent.

Each spring, the Taliban have issued similar statements about their planned offensives, and the targets of the operations have also been similar. In an April 30, 2011 announcement of the Al Badar spring offensive, the Taliban said they would would focus on "military centers, places of gatherings, airbases, ammunition and logistical military convoys of the foreign invaders in all parts of the country." The Taliban said that their tactics would include "group and martyrdom seeking attacks," or suicide attacks and assaults; "group offensives," or massed assaults; and "city attacks," ambushes, and IED attacks.

The Taliban announcement today coincided with a complex suicide assault in Kabul that targeted a civilian compound frequented by foreign and UN personnel. Five Taliban fighters and five civilians were killed in the attack [see LWJ report, Taliban launch suicide assault in Kabul following Obama's departure].

The Taliban launched today's attack in Kabul just hours after President Obama left Afghanistan, where he had given a speech on "ending the war in Afghanistan" and called for negotiations with the Taliban. The Taliban have publicly rejected peace overtures in the past, most recently in an official statement released at Voice of Jihad on Jan. 27, and have refused to sever ties with al Qaeda.

Today's Taliban announcement occurred three weeks after Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson, the top spokesman of the International Security Assistance Force, stated that ISAF sees no evidence of "cohesive action" by the Taliban to carry out a spring offensive. The Taliban conducted several coordinated attacks and assassinations of Afghan officials both before and after Jacobson made his statement [see LWJ report, Taliban suicide bombers kill 17 in attacks in south, west].

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