Taliban name Afghan spring offensive after founder and first emir Mullah Omar

The “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” the official name of the Taliban, announced the commencement of the 2016 spring offensive, and named it after Mullah Omar, its founder and first leader whose death was disclosed in the summer of 2015. A main goal of “Operation Omari” will be “clearing the remaining areas from enemy control and presence,” according to the Taliban.

The Taliban announced the beginning of “Operation Omari” in a statement released today on its official propaganda website, Voice of Jihad.

“[T]he Islamic Emirate’s leadership eagerly announces this year’s Jihadi Operation in honor of the movement’s founder and first leader, the late Amir ul Mu’mineen Mullah Muhammad Omar Mujahid (May Allah have mercy upon him),” the group said.

The Taliban lauded Omar, claiming he “pacified 95 percent of our nation’s territory from wickedness, corruption and oppression, and vanquished the maligned and wicked” during his rule, only to be deposed by the US after al Qaeda attacked America on Sept. 11, 2001. Under Omar’s leadership, “through holy Jihad, they [the Taliban/muhajideen] defeated the vast multinational coalition arrayed against them,” the statement continued.

Operation Omari “was initiated and planned by the Islamic Emirate’s leadership, the leaders of the Military Commission as well as the Emirate’s military planners,” according to the statement. The Military Commission is the largest and most important branch of the Taliban. Mullah Omar’s eldest son, Mullah Mohammad Yaqoub, was recently given a senior position on the Military Commission and was appointed the “military chief” of 15 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.

Like previous years, the Taliban outlined its goals for the coming year’s spring offensive. According to the statement, Omari will focus on “clearing the remaining areas from enemy control and presence.” The Taliban had success in the past year in taking control of or contesting multiple districts throughout Afghanistan. Of the more than 400 districts in Afghanistan, the Taliban control or strongly contest at least 80, according to data compiled by The Long War Journal.

“Similarly the Operation will employ large scale attacks on enemy positions across the country, martyrdom-seeking and tactical attacks against enemy strongholds, and assassination of enemy commanders in urban centers,” the statement continued. “The present Operation will also employ all means at our disposal to bog the enemy down in a war of attrition that lowers the morale of the foreign invaders and their internal armed militias. By employing such a multifaceted strategy it is hoped that the foreign enemy will be demoralized and forced to evict our nation.”

The Taliban also stressed that the “mechanisms for good governance” must be implemented in the areas under its control. Additionally, the Taliban stressed that it must work to lure Afghan officials and security personnel into its ranks. The Taliban has established a “Call and Guidance, Luring and Integration Commission,” which is also known as the Preaching and Guidance Commission, with the goal of spreading the Taliban’s message and encouraging Afghan government and security officials to defect. The commission is now led by Mullah Abdul Manan Akhund, a brother of Mullah Omar.

While the Taliban’s yearly announcement of its spring offensive is often viewed as a propaganda exercise, Taliban military and political operations often closely adhere to the announced goals. For instance, one of last year’s goals for “Operation Azm” was to conduct “guerrilla attacks in all major cities.” The Taliban fulfilled this promise, with suicide and other operations taking place in most of Afghanistan’s major cities, including the capital of Kabul. The Taliban even took control of Kunduz City for two weeks after mounting an offensive throughout the province.

In previous years, the Taliban said that “infiltration attacks,” which are better known as green-on-blue or insider attacks, would be launched against Coalition and Afghan forces. In 2012, just one year after the Taliban announced that it was ramping up such assaults, green-on-blue attacks accounted for 15 percent of Coalition casualties, according to data compiled by The Long War Journal. While reliable data on the number of casualties suffered by Afghan forces in insider attacks is unavailable, anecdotal press reporting indicates that Afghan forces may have taken losses similar to, if not higher than, Coalition forces.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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