HERAT -- The Taliban has failed at its so-called spring offensive as it suffers heavy casualties at the hands of Afghan forces and the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission, security officials say.
Enhanced military operations in the past month, including night raids, have helped thwart potential attacks that were part of the Taliban's "Al-Fatah" offensive in the western region of the country.
"The security situation in the western region is very good, and the enemy has suffered a considerable number of defeats," Deputy Defence Minister Maj. Gen. Muhammad Yaseen Zia told reporters May 14.
"We'd like to reassure the public that the security forces can reach them in the farthest areas, and the enemy has been defeated in its spring offensive on many levels," he said.
The Taliban "planned to capture at least one district from each of the western provinces, but they didn't achieve that goal," Zia added. "Our brave soldiers have always stood strongly against the enemies, and the Taliban will take their [evil] goals with them to their graves."
The Taliban began their spring offensive with a great amount of propaganda but were unable to capture even the smallest area from security forces, said Gen. Nurullah Qaderi, commander of the 207th Zafar Corps of the Afghan National Army (ANA).
"The highways are open, all district centres are accessible and all the customs facilities are functional in the western region," Qaderi said in an interview.
"We won't have any mercy on the Taliban. For those who want to join the peace process and the Taliban fighters who want to embrace us, our door of peace is open in front of them," he said. "But the Taliban who are killing our people, carrying out explosions, committing suicide attacks and blowing up smaller bridges, they must be fought and killed."
"The enemy saw many casualties last month in Pusht Rod District of Farah Province, Shindand and Farsi districts of Herat Province and Bala Murghab District of Badghis Province," he said on May 13. "Air strikes by our security forces and the international community have defeated the Taliban in many areas of the western region."
In the past month troops have killed more than 200 Taliban fighters in ground attacks and air strikes in the western region, and injured more than 300, said Qaderi.
The dead militants include Taliban commanders, he added.
"Better co-ordination between the national security forces and the Resolute Support forces has caused the Taliban's spring offensive to fail," he added, referring to the NATO-led coalition. "Air support from the Resolute Support Mission has always helped the security forces succeed on the battlefield."
Security forces have even regained ground amid the Taliban's so-called offensive in other parts of the country.
Afghan forces took control of Deh Yak District, a rural district in the eastern part of Ghazni Province that had been under Taliban influence for two years, the Ministry of Defence said in a statement on Monday (May 27).
Increased military pressure
While establishing lasting peace remains the central goal, NATO remains committed to supporting Afghan forces in protecting Afghans from the Taliban, said Gen. Scott Miller, commander of the Resolute Support Mission.
"I'm always very proud and supportive of the security forces," he said in a statement on May 14. "What's interesting now is listening to the people. And I hear the Afghan people saying it's time for peace."
"Unfortunately, as we work toward peace there is still fighting," he added. "And there are far too many Afghans losing their lives as a result of this fighting. So you do know I am committed to peace, but at the same time I know there is a fight, and we remain committed to supporting you in that fight."
Ignoring calls for a ceasefire during Ramadan, the Taliban continued their violent campaign against the public, Herat Governor Abdul Qayum Rahimi said.
Security forces will have "no mercy" on the fighters, he said.
"The Afghan government asked the Taliban to observe a ceasefire during the holy month of Ramadan, but they didn't accept the offer," Rahimi said. "We have seen that they killed Afghans in a number of areas. As the Taliban preferred war, we are prepared to fight."
"Those Taliban who consider themselves Afghans must join the peace process, but for those who fight, our security forces are definitely killing them," he added. "We won't have mercy on the Taliban fighters who are killing our innocent people and our security forces."
"The Taliban have been asked several times to renounce violence and make peace," said Gen. Aminullah Amarkhil, Herat Province's police chief. "As they have chosen to fight, we also are fully prepared to stand against them."
"Our security forces have the right to defend their country and people," he said.
Troops are ready for "any sacrifice" to protect Afghans from the insurgents, said Abdullah, an army officer in Herat who declined to give his first name.
"We will have no mercy on the Taliban, and we will defend our country to the last drop of our blood," he said. "We are ready for any sacrifice. If the enemy wants to make peace, we are ready for peace, but if it wants to fight, we can fight it with strength."
Effective night raids by security forces
Security officials touted recent night raids by Afghan forces as key in putting military pressure on the Taliban.
"Night raids have proved to be very effective," said Col. Muhammad Humayoun Paiman, deputy commander of the 207th Zafar Corps in Herat Province. "The night raids have inflicted strong blows and heavy casualties on the enemy. The Taliban have lost their ability to stay in one place at night, as they are afraid that the security forces will strike them at any time."
"Security forces are equipped with improved capabilities and advanced weaponry, and they are able to demolish the enemy everywhere at night," he added.
The night raids are designed to prevent harm to civilians, emphasised Col. Nazeer Ahmad Salek, commander of the 207th Zafar Corps training centre.
"One of our main training programmes is tactical studies for night raids that the ANA personnel take," he said. "Responding to the needs on the ground, the security forces receive training for conducting night raids, and their capabilities for undertaking night raids against the enemy have improved."
"We have arranged the night raid procedures in a way in which not a single civilian will be injured," he added. "Security forces are making ultimate efforts to protect property and lives."