A US Army serviceman sits on the tailgate of a helicopter in the Afghan capital Kabul on April 24, 2017. Photo: AFP

The Afghan Taliban announced Friday the start of their “spring offensive,” saying they would target foreign forces in the country and heralding a fresh round of fighting in the drawn-out conflict.

Operation Mansouri – named after the group’s former leader who was killed in a US drone strike in May 2016 – will use strategies from “conventional attack to guerrilla operations,” the statement said.

“The key objective… will be the foreign forces, their military infrastructure and intelligence, and the elimination of their local mercenaries,” the extremist group said in a statement.

“The enemy will be targeted, harassed, killed or captured until they abandon their last posts.”

The annual spring offensive normally marks the start of the “fighting season,” though this winter the lull was shorter and the Taliban continued to battle government forces.

The Taliban warned of further “suicide attacks, complex attacks and inside attacks” by soldiers or police turning against their peers.

Last week, they staged what is believed to be the deadliest-ever Taliban attack on a military installation, which left at least 135 recruits dead.

Authorities have arrested 35 soldiers as part of an investigation into whether the Taliban had inside help.

The gunmen were dressed in army uniforms and had valid passes to the base, fueling suspicions of complicity on the 30,000-strong base, where Western instructors are sometimes called on as part of Nato’s training, assistance and advisory mission.

So-called insider attacks have been a major problem during the war, which began in 2001.

Both the Afghan defense minister and his army chief resigned following the attack.

It is not clear whether the announcement of the spring offensive will lead to an immediate escalation in fighting.

–AFP

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