Acting US Secretary of State John Sullivan said the Taliban’s announcement Wednesday of their spring offensive underscored the group’s “responsibility for the insecurity that destroys the lives of thousands of Afghans each year.”
“There is no need for a new ‘fighting season’,” Sullivan said.
“Still, the Taliban announced another campaign of senseless violence targeting the democratically elected and internationally recognized Afghan government and their fellow Afghans.”
The militants said their campaign was a response to a more aggressive US military strategy adopted last year, which aims to force the militants into peace talks.
“Its primary target will be the American invaders and their intelligence agents. Their internal supporters will be dealt with as a secondary target,” the Taliban said.
Thousands more US troops have been sent to Afghanistan to help train the army, and commanders have been given greater authority to carry out air strikes against the militants in a major reversal of the previous policy of phased withdrawal of American forces.
As in previous years, the Taliban pledged to protect the lives of civilians, and made no mention of incidents such as an attack it claimed in Kabul in January in which an explosives-packed ambulance blew up, killing about 100 people.
However, the announcement underlines the risk to parliamentary and district council elections scheduled for October as efforts to register voters in remote areas of Afghanistan get underway.
On Sunday, some 60 people were killed in a suicide bombing at a voter registration center in Kabul in an attack claimed by Daesh. There have been a number of other attacks outside the capital.
Estimates of Taliban territorial control vary but the Pentagon estimates that 56 percent of the country is under government control, while a BBC survey this year estimated the insurgents were active in 70 percent of Afghanistan.