A U.S. Marine Corps carry team moves a transfer case containing the remains of Staff Sgt. Christopher Slutman, Thursday, April 11, 2019, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. According to the Department of Defense, Slutman, of Newark, Del., was among three American service members killed by a roadside bomb on Monday, April 8, near Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. (Photo: Patrick Semansky, AP)

KABUL, Afghanistan – The Taliban announced Friday the start of their spring offensive despite talking peace with the United States and ahead of a significant gathering of Afghans meant to discuss resolutions to the protracted war and an eventual withdrawal of American troops from the country.

Insurgents released a lengthy missive in five languages, including English, saying the fighting would continue while foreign forces remain in Afghanistan.

The announcement is something the militant group does every year, even though Taliban attacks never really ceased during the harsh winter months.

Insurgents carry out daily attacks targeting Afghan security forces and NATO troops, and inflicting staggering casualties, including among civilians. Most recently, a Taliban attack near the main U.S. air base in Afghanistan killed three Marines on Monday. The Taliban now hold sway over half the country after a relentless 17-year war, America’s longest.

The U.N.’s annual report earlier this year said civilian deaths hit a record high last year, blaming the insurgents and other militants, such as the Islamic State group, though it also noted an uptick in civilian casualties from U.S. bombing raids, most often in aid of Afghan troops on the ground.

Still, preparations are underway for Afghan-to-Afghan talks starting next week in Qatar, where the Taliban have a political office.

In Kabul, the Afghan High Peace Council, a government body created years ago to talk peace with anti-government forces, condemned the Taliban announcement, saying it brought into question the insurgents sincerity in seeking a peaceful end to the war.

Atta-u-Rahman Saleim, a council deputy, told The Associated Press over the phone that it undermines the credibility of the Taliban.

“They are insisting on war,” he said. “We can see this every day.”

U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who has escalated efforts to find a peaceful end to the war since his appointment last year, has been urging the Taliban to accept a cease-fire and hold talks directly with the Kabul government, something the insurgents refuse to do. The Taliban, who see the Afghan government as a U.S. puppet, say they will talk to Kabul officials at the upcoming Qatar meeting only as “ordinary Afghans” and not as government representatives.

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