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Khalilzad asks Pakistan, Qatar to condemn Taliban spring offensive

15 April 2019

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement the movement was committed to the peace process but accused Afghan and worldwide forces of stepping up their own operations.

Hours after the Taliban announced their so-called spring offensive, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, who has held five rounds of talks with Taliban members, said the announcement is "reckless" and is "indifference" to the demands of Afghans for peace.

Talks between the United States and Taliban have been making progress, and a deal is starting to come together, based around the U.S. withdrawing from Afghanistan and the Taliban promising to keep ISIS and al-Qaeda out of the country in the future.

Friday's announcement instructs the Taliban mujahideen, or holy warriors, to "launch jihadi operations with sincerity and pure intentions", strictly abiding by the Taliban command structure.

The statement says that by announcing offensives, the Taliban has often targeted "innocent people in Afghanistan" while they have been dictated by "strangers" and that they have used civilian houses as a shield.

"The U.S. and our worldwide partners will stand with Afghan security forces to continue our effort to end the war in Afghanistan, at the same time as we seek to bring parties to the table to negotiate peace", Khalilzad tweeted late Friday. Annas Haqqani is also part of the delegation but he is in Afghan government's custody.

"If executed, it will only yield more suffering and thousands more causalities", he tweeted.

"The Taliban made an announcement this morning that they choose violence over peace".

Meanwhile, former President Hamid Karzai in a statement expressed his concerns over the announcement of "Khalid operation" by the Afghan government and the "spring offensive" by the Taliban, and called on the two sides to make efforts for ending the war in the country.

The Taliban blamed Ghani's government and the USA for the violence, accusing them of the indiscriminate killing of civilians in a bombing campaign.

The group said in a statement that the offensive will be conducted across Afghanistan with the aim of "eradicating occupation" and "cleansing our Muslim homeland from invasion and corruption". "We have a tremendous opportunity for peace. Taweed Abad: Afghan Security Forces killed 5 Taliban terrorists and wounded 6 others", the joint press release added.

"The Taliban will not reach their vicious goals and their operations will be defeated like previous years", said Qais Mangal, a spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defence.

According to USA estimates, government forces control just over half the country, but with many areas out of reach of easy communications an accurate picture is hard.

Khalilzad asks Pakistan, Qatar to condemn Taliban spring offensive