Taliban to begin spring offensive

The Associated Press /

KABUL, Afghanistan — A NATO plane crash in southern Afghanistan killed four international troops on Saturday, the same day the Taliban announced its spring offensive and said it will target military and diplomatic sites with suicide bombers and infiltrate enemy forces to conduct deadly insider attacks.

April already has been the deadliest month so far this year across the country where Afghan security forces are increasingly taking the lead on the battlefield of the more than 11-year-old war.

The Afghan Defense Ministry said its security forces were prepared for the Taliban’s new campaign, which was to start today. “The Afghan National Army is ready to neutralize the offensive,” the ministry said.

Insurgents have escalated attacks to gain power and influence ahead of next year’s presidential election and the planned withdrawal of most U.S. and other foreign combat troops by the end of 2014. U.S.-backed efforts to try to reconcile the Islamic militant movement with the Afghan government are gaining little traction.