Taliban's Offensive Announcement 'Reckless': Khalilzad

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington Wednesday April 10. — AP

At least 27 militants have been confirmed dead and more than two dozen others injured, the statement said.

In the western province of Ghor, at least seven members of Afghan security forces were killed in a Taliban ambush, the provincial governor's spokesman, Abdul Hai Khatibi, said.

The Taliban also called on fighters to avoid civilian deaths in their attacks.

"Yesterday [April 13], around 7pm [14:30 GMT] a group of Taliban attacked Afghan National Defense and Security Forces checkpoints in Jurm district of Badakhshan province..."

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.

Friday's announcement instructs the Taliban mujahideen, or holy warriors, to "launch jihadi operations with sincerity and pure intentions", strictly abiding by the Taliban command structure.

According to Dawn news reports, Pompeo's remarks have come during a two-day congressional hearing on the USA state department's proposal of a budget this week.

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.

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It is expected that the Taliban, politicians and representatives of the Afghan government will be in Doha from April. 19 to 21, in what would be the first meeting between representatives of the government and the insurgents since the USA and the Taliban began peace talks past year.

The Taliban launches its annual offensive in spring aimed at gaining grounds to topple Afghan government.

The Taliban have long refused to speak officially with Kabul, dubbing the government a "puppet" of the West, and the militants have insisted that government officials are attending only in a "personal capacity".

A spokesman of the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan, Dave Butler, said the coalition forces will continue to support the Afghan forces in the fight against the Taliban as the group has chosen violence despite an "amazing" opportunity forces.

An injured boy receives treatment at a hospital after a clash between Taliban and security forces in Kunduz province, Afghanistan, April 13, 2019.

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

The United Nations last week said it had lifted travel bans for 11 Taliban delegates, including Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a cofounder of the 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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