KABUL -- As has been the case for the past 18 years, the Taliban's so-called annual spring offensive is destined for defeat, say Afghan officials and security analysts, who warn that this year it could endanger the peace process.
The militants April 12 announced their "Al-Fatah" spring offensive, launching attacks near Kunduz and in Kabul just hours later.
"The Taliban launches a propaganda offensive each year to justify their consecutive defeats and elevate their fighters' morale, and the Al-Fatah offensive is part of the group's frequent propaganda," said Qais Mangal, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence.
"Our security and defence forces heavily struck the Taliban during the winter," he told Salaam Times.
"Many Taliban fighters, including their commanders and shadow governors, have been killed in ground and air operations conducted by Afghan and Resolute Support Mission forces," he said.
"We can reassure Afghans that the Al-Fatah offensive will fail and face defeat as those in previous years," Mangal said.
Each year the Taliban "shouts they will flatten provinces and cities and defeat the government and international forces, but their statements remain just [words] at the end of the year," Kabul-based security analyst Miagul Wasiq told Salaam Times.
"This group has been fighting at full strength for the past 18 years, but it hasn't been able to topple the government... the Al-Fatah offensive is nothing but mere propaganda," he said.
The use of force by militants in pursuit of their goals has always ended in failure, said Mirza Muhammad Yarmand, former deputy interior minister.
"History has proved to us that none of the terrorist groups have ever been able to topple a government and achieve their goals by using force," he told Salaam Times. Instead, "most wars have been resolved through talks and reconciliation."
The Taliban once again are setting themselves up for such failure, he said.
"There is no chance that the Taliban will be able to overthrow the government and take power into their hands -- not with the Al-Fatah offensive or any other effort," he said.
Putting the peace process at risk
At the same time, the move by the Taliban puts the peace process in jeopardy, Yarmand said.
"With peace talks going on, they should have not declared the Al-Fatah offensive this spring," he said. "If the Taliban think that they will gain leverage at the negotiating table by intensifying fighting, they are mistaken."
The declaration of the spring offensive means that the Taliban will continue their terror and violence, damaging the peace talks, said Muhammad Dawood Ahmadi, a political analyst in Kabul.
"Afghans were hopeful about the peace talks, but the declaration of the Al-Fatah offensive by the Taliban can affect the peace process and weaken the Taliban leaders' position at the peace talks," Ahmadi told Salaam Times.
"The Taliban have insisted in the continuation of violence and terror, but they should know that they can't impose their ideology on Afghans by exercising violence," he said.
"The Al-Fatah offensive is a psychological warfare" attempt similar "to the group's previous offensives, and it won't bring any results or achievements."
"The Taliban made an announcement that they choose violence over peace," US Army Col. Dave Butler, a spokesman for Resolute Support Mission, said in a video message on April 12.
"We have a tremendous opportunity for peace. We are closer to peace than we ever have been in 40 years," he said. "We will support the Afghan security forces as they fight to protect the public. We will support the Afghan security forces as they fight the Taliban."
President Ashraf Ghani condemned the Taliban's fresh promise of violence.
"Taliban insist to prolong the conflict in Afghanistan whereas Afghan Ulema pronounced the war illegal and seditious, and demanded Taliban to cease their unwarranted violence," his press office said in an April 13 English-language statement.
"Afghan and international Ulema have persistently declared the war illegitimate according to Islamic tenets," said the statement.
"Taliban announced their offensive while the Afghan government has stepped up its efforts for peace to end the imposed war on Afghans, and the U.S. Special Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation [Zalmay Khalilzad] has been engaged in direct talks with the insurgent group," it added.
Khalilzad himself denounced the Taliban announcement.
"Through this announcement, Taliban leaders demonstrate their indifference to the demands of Afghans across the country. The call for more fighting will not advance peace efforts," he said in a series of tweets April 12 following the Taliban's announcement.
"If executed, it will only yield more suffering and thousands more casualties," he said.
"The US and our international partners will stand with Afghan security forces to continue our effort to end the war in Afghanistan, at the same time as we seek to bring parties to the table to negotiate peace," he said.