US, Afghan officials shrug off Afghanistan Taliban's threat of new offensive
As Afghan President Hamid Karzai heads to Washington, the Afghanistan Taliban is announcing a nationwide offensive against coalition troops and diplomats.
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The Afghanistan Taliban announced Saturday it would begin a new, nationwide campaign of attacks against US and coalition forces in Afghanistan, as President Hamid Karzai heads to Washington for talks.
President Karzai’s visit and meeting with President Obama, due to take place Monday, is intended to repair a relationship that has grown increasingly rocky in recent months.
The Taliban’s announcement that it would begin an offensive on Monday appeared an attempt overshadow or harm Karzai’s trip.
But the Associated Press reports that Afghan Defense Minister Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak, who is traveling to the US with Karzai, dismissed the Taliban’s threat as propaganda, saying that the group did not have the ability to carry out such a campaign, and that intelligence shows many of its leaders are actually across the border in Pakistan.
The paper reports the militants also promised to lay siege to Afghanistan’s major cities and blockade military bases, as well as assassinate government officials and target troops.
Coalition offensive on Kandahar
Coalition troops are preparing to launch an offensive on the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, after ousting the Taliban from control in neighboring Helmand Province. The 30,000 additional US troops Obama ordered to Afghanistan to help turn the tide against the Taliban have already begun to arrive.
Whether propaganda or real threat, the Taliban’s announcement illustrates the militant group’s continuing presence as Karzai heads to Washington, where Reuters reports he will likely receive a somewhat cool reception from a nation that has come to doubt his leadership.
Sentiments grew worse last month after Karzai accused the US and other nations of causing fraud in last year’s presidential elections in Afghanistan.
The Journal reports that Karzai is seeking Obama's support ahead of a planned peace jirga, where he will seek to start talks with insurgents and entice low-level fighters away from violence with cash.
The Guardian claims to have seen a copy of the Karzai government’s proposed plan for reconciliation with the Taliban, and reports that the Afghan government will offer exile to some leaders and jobs and “deradicalization” programs for lower-level fighters who lay down arms.
Under the plan, such former fighters would be given amnesty from prosecution for past crimes.
Western powers are likely to be pleased by the level of detail about the new High Level Peace Council, which will take over from a notoriously chaotic predecessor body accused of reintegrating fighters who subsequently took up arms again.
However, diplomats are worried that the government lacks the capacity to implement a programme that calls for complex activities in around 4,000 villages most affected by the insurgency. One diplomat said: "For the international community money is not a problem, they will pay whatever it takes. One gets a sense that there are people on the military side who will do most of the work and then give it some sort of an Afghan face."