Taliban Announce Start Of Spring Offensive

KABUL, Afghanistan (April 27, 2013)--The Taliban say they'll start their spring offensive Sunday, signaling plans for an uptick in violence as the weather warms across Afghanistan, making both travel and fighting easier.

The announcement Saturday comes toward the end of a month that already has been the deadliest of the year.

The Taliban leadership promised "every possible tactic will be utilized in order to detain or inflict heavy casualties on the foreign transgressors."

The Afghan defense ministry says it's ready.

In a statement, it says the Afghan army has built trust and support among the Afghan people.

U.S.-backed efforts to try to reconcile the Islamic militant movement with the Afghan government have so far failed.

Insurgents already have stepped up attacks this spring as they try to position themselves for power ahead of national elections and the planned withdrawal of most U.S. and other foreign combat troops by the end of 2014.

Meanwhile, a NATO aircraft crashed in southern Afghanistan today. The international coalition says its forces are securing the site, but there are no other details.

Afghan forces, meanwhile, are taking over more territory and leading more operations with less U.S. help, but they are paying the price in blood.

Casualties doubled last year and are rising again.

Roughly 300 troops and police are killed each month, according to an Afghan security official who spoke anonymously because the figure has not been publicly undisclosed.

The Americans are trying to teach them after every tactical error, while there are still enough foreign forces to serve as a safety net ahead of the December 2014 NATO troop drawdown.

U.S. and Afghan officials say their most realistic goal is for Afghan forces to maintain a bloody equilibrium with the Taliban, holding urban areas and trade routes, buying time for the economy to improve while persuading the Taliban to stop fighting.

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