Taliban announces beginning of spring offensive amid US peace talks

Members of the Afghan Taliban militant group on Friday announced that the group would begin its spring offensive, warning of new attacks against U.S. troops and Afghan security forces despite ongoing peace talks with U.S. negotiators.

The Associated Press reported that Taliban officials released the announcement in five languages, instructing militants around the world and in Afghanistan in particular to “launch jihadi operations with sincerity and pure intentions" while avoiding civilian casualties.

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The Taliban's announcement follows months of frequent militant attacks and bombings in the country, where three U.S. service members and a contractor were killed in an IED attack by militants just days ago.

Taliban forces operate in about half of the country, according to the AP.

“They are insisting on war,” a deputy member of the Afghan Peace Council told the AP of the Taliban. “We can see this every day.”

A spokesman for the militant group also confirmed to the AP on Friday that the International Red Cross had been banned from providing relief efforts in Taliban-controlled regions.

“We are going to have a dialogue with them in order to try and begin our work again,” a Red Cross official in Kabul told the news service “It is a big issue for us because we have to stop working."

The U.S. and the Taliban agreed to a preliminary peace framework in January, but a final deal has not been agreed upon. U.S. commanders are insisting a ceasefire in Afghanistan be part of any final agreement with the militants.