Afghanistan's Taliban has condemned as “futile” new U.S. plans to increase airstrikes against the Islamist insurgency and to deploy of American soldiers to the battlefield when necessary.
U.S. President Barack Obama approved the wider role for the U.S. military after months of debate, to help Afghan security forces combat the Taliban.
A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Majahid, said the moves will not deter it or cause it to step back and give up the “armed resistance.” He said it will only lead to the waste of U.S. resources and more battlefield casualties.
“We condemn the occupation and extension of the war. We want to tell the Americans the Afghan nation firmly resisted with grace your use of any force in the past 15 years. We remain resilient and will carry forward our jihad against your occupation,” Mujahid said in a statement sent to VOA on Saturday.
He said that around 500,000 U.S.-trained Afghan soldiers, police, intelligence personnel and local militiamen suffer daily casualties and abandon areas on the battlefield at the hands of the Taliban.
“And they now beg you again to fight alongside them,” Mujahid said. He went on to claim the U.S. military had been unable to harm the Taliban with their modern weapons and more than 100,000 soldiers a few years ago.
Most U.S and NATO combat forces withdrew from Afghanistan in 2014, leaving behind some 13,000 troops under the so-called Resolute Support mission to train, advise and assist local forces.
Meanwhile, President Ashraf Ghani’s unity government has welcomed the decision to broaden the role of the U.S. military in Afghanistan, saying it will help combat terrorism.
“The expansion is in the interest of the stability in Afghanistan and the region, a presidential spokesman, Shah Hussain Murtazawi, told VOA, adding the bilateral security agreement between Kabul and Washington allows for such changes.
Asked if the U.S. position was taken based on an Afghan government request, Murtazawi told VOA's Afghan Service that the decision was made during a "quadrilateral" meeting of Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States and China in mid-May. Pakistan has denied there was a decision to step up attacks on the Afghan Taliban at that meeting.
The conflict in Afghanistan has cost the U.S. around $700 billion and killed more than 2,200 American troops.
The war killed more than 3,500 Afghan civilians and wounded around 7,500 in 2015, according to the United Nations, which blames the Taliban for most of the casualties.
VOA Afghan Service contributed to this article