Truck bombs: Taliban claim attack as spring offensive begins

AFP 2019  Wakil KOHSARTaliban Claims It Fired Deadly Missile at Largest US Air Base in Afghanistan

"If executed, it will only yield more suffering and thousands more causalities", the U.S. envoy said.

Through this announcement, Khalilzad said, Taliban leaders demonstrate their "indifference" to the demands of Afghans across the country.

"At a time when all Afghans should come together in talks to determine a common future, a call for fighting suggests the Taliban are stuck in the ways of the past", he said.

Separately, seven members of the security forces were killed in an ambush in the western province of Ghor, leading to an hours-long firefight, provincial government spokesman Abdul Hai Khatibi said.

The Taliban takeover of Kunduz in 2015 shocked observers, and marked the first time since their ouster in 2001 that they had been able to conquer a major city.

Combat had already intensified across Afghanistan in recent weeks and hundreds of Afghan troops and civilians have been killed, making the launch of Al-Fath largely symbolic.

The Taliban on Friday announced a new spring offensive, alarming the USA negotiator who has been sitting with the militants to seek an end to more than 17 years of war.

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.

Representatives from a range of Afghan groups are also expected to be present but the talks will once again exclude the Afghan government, which the Taleban dismiss as a US-appointed " puppet" regime.

In a series of tweets released hours after the Taliban announced a new spring offensive, the U.S. chief peace negotiator also urged Pakistan and Qatar to condemn the Taliban's announcement, arguing that an increase in violence will only hurt the peace process that these two states were backing.

The United States is leading a push to forge a settlement with the Taliban, after almost 18 years of war, and has held several meetings with Taliban officials. "The Afghan and world religious scholars have clearly said that the war in Afghanistan has no religious legitimacy and its continuance has no legitimate judgment".

Nangarhar Gov. Shahmahmood Miakhel said Afghan forces repelled the attack after reinforcements arrived.

The spring offensive traditionally marks the start of the so-called fighting season, though fighting nowadays continues unabated throughout the year.

To facilitate travel to Doha, the United Nations has lifted travel bans for 11 Taliban delegates, including Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a cofounder of the Islamist movement and its top political leader, as well as Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, the Taliban's former deputy minister of foreign affairs.

"Taliban peace interlocutors" names have been removed from the UN Security Council black list for nine months, the group's spokesman claimed on Friday.

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