WASHINGTON — The Taliban has launched its annual spring military offensive, with a name that analysts and Pentagon officials note portends the group’s thoughts on current Afghan peace talks.
Pentagon officials said the name of the Taliban’s spring offensive, announced over the weekend, is “Al-Fath” — or victory. The offensive gets underway even though peace talks between the U.S. and the insurgent entity are reported to be making slow progress.
“This is entirely predictable and pointless,” retired Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis, a senior fellow at Defense Priorities, told TMN in an interview Monday. “The reality is the Taliban will never stop fighting, continued U.S. military operations will not force them to negotiate to our advantage, and the war will go on forever so long as we continue fighting it.”
According to news reports, the Taliban launched its spring offensive with an attack against the northern Afghan city of Kunduz. Before the attack, the Taliban released a document outlining its determination to battle until all international troops leave Afghanistan.
U.S. and Taliban officials have been meeting to discuss a political solution to the 18-year-long conflict. On Monday, both sides announced the next meeting between them would be sometime this month in Qatar, when the Taliban has a political office, according to news reports
The first Kabul-to-Taliban all Afghan talks are scheduled next week in Doha, Qatar, according to news reports.
Last week, the U.N. Security Council removed travel and financial restrictions on the 15 Qatar-based Taliban officials holding peace talks to open to travel for them to other countries on peace-talk related meetings, according to news reports.
U.S. and NATO military officials are not surprised by the spring offensive, as it happens every year and has been generally a military success for the Taliban.
The Taliban now controls more territory in Afghanistan since it was the government there in September 2001.
In 2018, U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan launched what the Pentagon called a historic winter offensive, with the goal of keeping the Taliban disrupted and unable to prepare for attacks in the spring.
That offensive would keep the pressure on the Taliban, render them unable to rearm and resupply, and lead to talks to end the war, Pentagon official said then in interviews with TMN.
It did not accomplish that goal.
This winter, it was the Taliban that has been relentless in its attacks, even as nascent peace talks were underway in Qatar.
Another difference this year is the continued refocusing of the Taliban on Afghan military elements as opposed to the foreign troops the students demand must leave, Bill Roggio, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, wrote in the Long War Journal.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told the Associated Press on Friday that the entity has banned the International Committee of the Red Cross and the World Health Organization from operating in territory under their control. This is the second time in the past year the insurgents have barred Red Cross workers, the AP reported.