The snows are melting in Afghanistan, flowers (including opium poppies) will soon be blooming, and, in what has become an annual ritual, the Taliban have announced their plan for a spring offensive. They have given this one the name “Mullah Omar,” after the leader whose death they admitted only last year.
The Interior Ministry of he U.S.-backed government in Kabul responded by saying, “There is nothing new in the Taliban offensive.” But, in fact, this is not the same-old-same-old seasonal war. It is a test of the new leadership under Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansoor, whose authority has been contested by some factions. Leaders and fighters who have pledged allegiance to the self-declared caliphate of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) in faraway Syria and Iraq also have eroded the Taliban ranks.
So, as one senior member of the Taliban explained, this year they will not only have to push into new territory, they will have to work to hold on to what they’ve recently taken.
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