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Afghan Taliban Announces Spring Offensive By Email

Put aside the wisdom of telegraphing a military offensive; doesn’t the Taliban want to return the world to an 8th-century standard of Islamic Law? Is there room in that worldview for email?

While the Taliban have made public statements in the past about the commencement of the spring fighting season, this year’s announcement, like much of the recent Taliban propaganda, was a sophisticated product. It was e-mailed in the morning, at the beginning of the news cycle on Afghan radio and television and the information was supplied in Dari and Pashto, the two most common languages here, as well as English.

Aside from the format, the more interesting content in the message stressed a desire to avoid civilian casualties, saying that “all Afghan people should bear in mind to keep away from gatherings, convoys, and centers of the enemy.”

The first phase of this offensive did not follow through on this promise:

Taliban-led insurgents killed at least 11 people across Afghanistan in a renewed springtime offensive on Sunday despite a huge security clampdown, hours after the United Nations pleaded for all sides to avoid civilian casualties.

The hardline Islamists have warned civilians to stay away from public gatherings, military bases and convoys, as well as government offices, because those sites would be the target of a wave of attacks beginning on Sunday.

Both sides of the conflict have vowed to protect civilians — the civilian toll hit record levels in 2010 — but more than half of those killed on Sunday were ordinary Afghans.

The major attack was a suicide bombing carried out by a 12 year-old child in Paktika.

Both sides have caused civilian casualties over 10 years in Afghanistan, as those kinds of deaths are practically impossible to avoid given the manner of weapons used, the difficulty of distinguishing the battlefield or the opposition, etc.

Expect foreign forces, foreign contractors and Afghan security to be the focus of these insurgent attacks, however. If comes two months before a deadline imposed by the President for some manner of transition in the country and a withdrawal, however token, of US forces.

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David Dayen

David Dayen