The Taliban declared the start of a spring offensive in Afghanistan on Saturday, warning they plan to attack foreign troops, Afghan security forces and government officials in coming days.
In a statement, the Taliban warned Afghan civilians to avoid public gatherings, military bases and convoys, as well as Afghan government centers, all of which insurgents plan to attack. The statement comes a day after senior military officials and Western diplomats warned of a surge in militant attacks during the coming week.
"Operations will focus on attacks against military centers, places of gathering, airbases, ammunition and logistical military convoys of the foreign invaders in all parts of the country," the statement said.
The statement said the targets of their operation, nicknamed Badar, would be foreign forces, high-ranking officials within President Hamid Karzai's government, members of the Cabinet and lawmakers, as well as businessmen working with NATO forces.
"All Afghan people should bear in mind to keep away from gatherings, convoys and centers of the enemy so that they will not become harmed during attacks of mujahedin against the enemy," the Taliban said.
NATO commanders have trumpeted successes in Afghanistan since 30,000 additional U.S. troops arrived last year, although they also predicted a spike in violence with the arrival of the spring and summer fighting season. Violence across Afghanistan hit record levels in 2010, with civilian and military casualties the worst since U.S-backed Afghan forces dislodged the Taliban regime in 2001.
The Pentagon said in a biannual report Friday that the increase in violence was partly due to increased offensives against insurgent havens and mild winter weather that kept insurgents active.
firstname.lastname@example.org Special correspondent Hashmat Baktash in Kabul contributed to this report.