(KABUL, Afghanistan) — He’s lived through invasions, suicide attacks, and the almost daily routine of NATO forces patrolling his streets. And yet, despite all Aziz Ahmed has been through, there’s one thing that still scares him: The Taliban’s “Spring Offensive.”
“I don’t know who the next target will be,” said Aziz, who sells telephone cards at the side of a Kabul street.
“The winter was quiet, but as soon as the weather became warm, we saw a couple of attacks in Kabul. When the Taliban say something, they do it,” he said.
The Taliban announced Thursday as the official beginning of their offensive, naming the campaign Al-Farooq, after the second caliph of Islam. Posted on their website, the announcement declares the offensive will take place across the entire country, identifying foreigners, contractors, advisers, Afghan members of parliament, and anyone who associates with the Afghan regime, as targets.
But unlike previous years, this year, there’s a key difference. They are setting up a “Recruitment Commission,” a wing whose goal is to influence officials and high ranking Afghans to switch sides in the more than decade-long conflict.
It’s a troubling development since 20 percent of all NATO casualties this year have been caused by Afghans wearing military uniforms. In the latest incident, a commando with Afghanistan’s special forces opened fire on his American counterparts, gunning down a U.S. soldier during a joint night raid. The Afghan was shot dead by U.S. forces.
If the idea behind the new “Recruitment Commission” is to generate sympathy and support for the insurgents, their tactic may fall on deaf ears.
“It’s all part of their usual strategy,” says Mohammed Zia, a money changer in Kabul.
“I’m not worried. Day by day our security forces are getting stronger and are able to fight them. The Taliban know this is a media war, and that’s why they make these announcements. The only reason is to panic the people,” he continued.
The ISAF issued a statement saying the Afghan forces will be able to handle the Taliban’s offensive.
“The insurgents have already tested the ANSF a number times this spring and each time it is the same result; the insurgents are defeated,” the ISAF statement said.
The statement cited attacks in Kabul early Thursday which injured civilians, including children heading to school.
“The Taliban’s words have never matched their actions, especially when the majority of civilian casualties are caused by the Taliban’s careless actions,” the statement said.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Paul Cruickshank and Michael Pearson, CNN