Taliban deputy chief announces new offensive in Afghanistan
The deputy of the Afghan Taliban's supreme leader Mullah Omar announced Wednesday that the militants would launch a new "strong and robust" operation in Afghanistan to counter more than 25,000 additional US and NATO forces due to arrive in the country this year, dpa reported.
"As the US and NATO wants to send more troops to Afghanistan, the Afghans too sense the need for a strong and robust operation to counter the new forces," Mullah Brodar Akhund, the Taliban movement's number two leader, said in a statement posted on their website.
US President Barack Obama announced earlier this year that he would send 17,000 combat troops and 4,000 military trainers to Afghanistan by summer this year as the administration changed its focus from the war in Iraq to the one in Afghanistan.
Other NATO countries have also pledged to send around 5,000 soldiers and military advisors to Afghanistan in the coming months to help provide security for the upcoming presidential elections in August.
"The Islamic Emirate Mujahideen will launch a new operation all over Afghanistan by the name of Nasrat (Assistance)," he said, adding that the new operation that will start on Thursday would include an increased number of suicide attacks, ambushes and offensive assaults.
"The target of the operation will be military bases of invaders, diplomatic centres, military convoys, officials of the puppet government and members of the parliament," Brodar said in the statement.
The statement also called on Afghan government employees and security forces to stop working with the "puppet government," while warning transportation companies that haul military supplies for NATO troops and construction firms that build military bases to halt their activities, or they would face consequences.
Taliban militants have steadily gained strength in Afghanistan in the past three years following the ouster of their ultra-Islamic regime in late 2001. The militants extended their writ to larger swathes of the country last year.
The militants also killed nearly 300 international soldiers last year, which marked it the deadliest year for foreign troops since their deployment around eight years ago.
As a sign of the rebels' increasing penetration into new areas, militants briefly overran a district in the relatively peaceful province of Baghlan in the northern region on Monday, while 12 militants were killed in an encounter with police forces in Mosayee district, some 15 kilometres south of Kabul city, on Tuesday.
More than 70,000 international troops deployed from 42 nations are currently stationed in Afghanistan. More than 160,000 newly trained Afghan army and police are also battling the resurgent Taliban in the war-torn country.