The Taliban said today they will start their spring offensive this week, an annual campaign in their war against the Afghan government. In an emailed statement, the group said the offensive—dubbed “Azm” or perseverance in Dari and Arabic—will begin on Friday. The Taliban said their Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is “determined to prolong the ongoing jihad,” or holy war. In past years, spring and the melting of snow on the mountains along the border with Pakistan have marked a significant upsurge in fighting between the Taliban and NATO forces along with their local allies. This fighting season is the first year the insurgents will face just Afghan forces on the battlefield after the withdrawal of most international combat troops at the end of last year.
While a long-term demand of the group has been the withdrawal of international military from Afghanistan, the statement said that under US leadership, the “crusaders” will maintain “control of our land and space” through security agreements with the Afghan government. Attacks across the north and east have intensified in the build-up to the launch of this year’s fighting season. The insurgents can be expected to fight until snow falls on the Hindu Kush. But after more than a decade of war, the Taliban appear no closer to their goal of overthrowing the Kabul government. This has opened up an opportunity for what is perceived to be an Islamic State affiliate to establish a small presence in Afghanistan. But despite the nascent ISIS presence, the Taliban appear to be spreading their influence to areas where they have not had a significant presence.