- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Taliban on Wednesday announced the start of their spring fighting season, just hours after President Obama concluded a surprise visit to Afghanistan.

The “primary target” of the militants’ new offensive will be “the foreign invaders, their advisers, their contractors and members of all associated military, intelligence and auxiliary departments,” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahed said in a statement.

“And similarly, the high-ranking officials of the stooge Kabul regime, members of Parliament, those associated with ministries of defense, intelligence and interior, members of the so called High Peace Council … and all those people who work against the mujahedeen, toil to pave ground for the occupation of Afghanistan and become the cause for the strength of the invaders will also be targeted,” he said.

The Taliban also claimed responsibility for two suicide bomb attacks in the eastern part of Kabul hours after Mr. Obama delivered his speech from the Afghan capital.

Mr. Mujahed said the Taliban will use “new and tested war tactics” and “top priority will be given to safeguarding the lives and wealth of civilians.”

Earlier, a senior U.S. official said in a background briefing that administration officials “remain in contact with various Taliban leaders that we have several indications of intense interest in the reconciliation process.”

The Taliban announced in March that they were suspending peace talks with the U.S.

So far, the Taliban only have talked about opening an office in Qatar and the release of five of its top operatives from the U.S. military detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The U.S. official said the release of the prisoners has been “put on hold” for “reasons that appear to have to do with internal political turbulence among the Taliban.”

“The Taliban understands very well what needs to happen in that channel for those talks to re-continue and I think to restart and we’ll see what they do with that knowledge,” the official said.

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