Taliban Flex Muscles for a New Afghan Kill on Holy Friday:

Posted April 22nd, 2015 at 7:22 pm (UTC+0)
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Taliban Fighters
By Behroz Khan
Imagine, it is Friday, April 23, and suppose millions of Afghans wake up with the call for prayers on the Muslims’ holy day. But instead they witness the “holy warriors” overrun military bases, security check posts and diplomatic missions across the country in the name of the so-called Spring Offensive by Taliban.
The threat is precise. The statement from Taliban released to media outlets on April 22, 2015 says all foreign occupiers, their permanent military bases, the intelligence and diplomatic centers including the Afghan Intelligence, interior and defense ministries will be targeted.
The statement emailed to VOA said “the foreign occupiers are still carrying out drone strikes and night operations against the civilian people and absolutely controls the military and fighting command and control system of the heterogeneous regime under the so called Basic Security Agreement”, the offensive is code named Azm,(resolve). The inspiration for the code name comes, of course, from Arabic & Urdu.
Taliban renewed their demand of immediate withdrawal of the remaining around 12000 US and NATO forces from Afghanistan. The bulk of foreign troops left the country in December 2014 while according to the earlier plan; all the combat troops were to be withdrawn. However, after signing the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), Afghan President Dr. Ashraf Ghani’s government urged President Barack Obama’s administration to review its decision of a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan. President Obama accepted the Afghan request.
Policy Shift on US combat troops:
During his maiden visit to the United States since taking charge of office, when President Ghani also addressed the US Congress. In response to the demand, President Obama decided to extend the combat role of US troops into 2016 to fight Taliban and militant groups based in Afghanistan posing threat to American forces as well as the Afghan government.
Experts on Afghanistan believe that compared to the previous years, 2015 can witness increased violence due to the fact that majority of the foreign combat troops are no longer in the country, which can embolden Taliban and other militant groups to test the capability of the Afghan National Army (ANA). However, assuming the charge, the Afghan security forces have so far held its ground and did not allow the Taliban to make substantially visible gains to take control of areas. The casualties of the Afghan forces, according to various reports are high, and the UN said that civilian casualties from ground battle rose by eight percent by March this year compared to the same period in 2014.
Since October 2001, as many as 2351 American soldiers have died in the fighting against Taliban and their affiliates in Afghanistan, according to figures released by the website for Operation Enduring Freedom. Besides the American casualties, 453 soldiers from the United Kingdom and 675 from other nations have also been killed in the 13 years long conflict.
Pakistan’s Role in Afghanistan:
Their relationship marred by years of distrust, Pakistan and Afghanistan now seem to have initiated a new phase of camaraderie with high hopes on both sides and pledges to jointly fight terrorism. The latest visit of the Afghan military chief General Sher Mohammad Karimi to Pakistan indicate a high mark in relations between the neighboring military forces of the countries. General Karimi visit followed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s unprecedented November 2014 trip to Pakistan’s military headquarters to meet Gen. Raheel Sharif. Pakistan’s military chief Genereal Raheel and his top spymaster, ISI’s chief, Gen. Rizwan Akhtar have also been to Kabul twice since January 2015. A hitherto silent or impartial China has also jumped into the fray to seek peace in Afghanistan. Chinese interest in Afghan peace could have two main objectives: access to Afghanistan’s untapped natural resources and to eliminate anti-Beijing Islamic groups, particularly East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) which is believed to be hiding in the Pakistani tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan.
VOA Deewa’s colleague, Wagma Jalawan talked to Brig. Saad Muhammad Khan, a Pakistani expert on defense affairs to ask about Islamabad’s role in the developing scenario in Afghanistan, particularly in the backdrop of Chinese President’s much hyped visit to Pakistan.
“Chinese President also during the recent trip asked Pakistan to play its role in restoring peace in Afghanistan and this I think puts more pressure on Islamabad,” he said.
Brig. Saad also said that Taliban will try to create disturbances in the eastern and southern provinces of Afghanistan bordering Pakistan as the Taliban Shuras have been active in Peshawar and Quetta till recently, a view that Pakistani denies. Critics say that Pakistan has announced to act against all militant groups under its Zar-i-Azb military operation ongoing in Waziristan, but its actions have not matched the words so far. The Haqani Network and Taliban Quetta Shura are a major concern of the US as well as Afghan government. The Pakistan military operation has not yet dismantled the two lethal outfits. The groups pose a serious threat to foreign and Afghan National forces in Afghanistan. Afghan president Ashraf Ghani has his own concerns on Pakistan action against militants across the border. He said it pushed militants into Afghanistan increasing pressure on Afghan security forces.
Situation on ground for Taliban:
Since Pakistan has assured Afghanistan of the “paradigm” shift in its Afghan policy, the Taliban are less likely to get the required support in supply of weapons and manpower reservoirs like the past. Though, their Pakistani brethren in faith, Tehrik Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have claimed to have successfully test-fired indigenous missile. A video released by TTP reportedly shows the assembling and successful launch of the missile.
What could be the fallout of the Spring Offensive in Afghanistan, Wagma Jalawan asked the US-based Director Middle East Institute at the Ohio University, Alam Paind and he responded:
“The Taliban are convinced that most of the American troops are out and the remaining will withdraw gradually. But they must understand that the conditions are not the same as it were years ago that allow them to make a comeback”.
Not in control of territory in Afghanistan, what could be the strategy of Taliban fighters to make its spring offensive effective enough to force the Afghan government to give in and let the Taliban play a stronger role in the future negotiations, only time can tell.

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