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Taliban to launch major offensive in Afghanistan
KABUL (Reuters) - Taliban insurgents announced on Saturday an offensive against NATO and U.S. troops in Afghanistan, just as Afghan President Hamid Karzai is due to travel to Washington.
In a statement from an email usually used by Taliban militants, it said the new offensive will begin from Monday and would target foreign troops, Afghan government officials, and foreign diplomats with suicide and roadside bombings.
"In order to expedite the momentum of the Jihadic activities, the Islamic Emirate announces this spring operation by the name of Al-Faath (victory) to be launched against Americans, NATO members and their surrogates," the statement said.
The Taliban that ruled most of Afghanistan for five years before being toppled by U.S.-led Afghan forces in late 2001, described their government as the "Islamic Emirates".
Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak called the offensive propaganda and said insurgents are not able to stand against NATO-led troops in any conventional war.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai leaves for a four-day trip to Washington on Monday aimed at bolstering support for his war-ravaged country and Afghan officials say discussing peace talks with the Taliban will be top of his agenda.
Karzai is hoping his trip to Washington will secure the backing of President Barack Obama and convince the Taliban to enter peace negotiations and end the war which is now in its ninth year.
However, the Taliban have repeatedly rejected Karzai's peace offer saying no peace talks would happen as long as thousands of international troops operate in Afghanistan.
The announcement of the offensive comes as thousands of Western and Afghan troops are gearing up to launch a military campaign against the Taliban in their spiritual stronghold in Kandahar next month.
There are some 130,000 foreign troops in the country and the number is set to rise when the bulk of additional combat troops ordered by U.S. President Barack Obama arrive in Afghanistan in a bid to turn the tide against the growing Taliban insurgency.
Violence in the country is at its worst level since the Taliban intensified their guerrilla warfare against the Afghan government and its foreign backers four years ago.
(Additional Reporting by Golnar Motevalli; Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Myra MacDonald)
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