KABUL, April 20 (Xinhua) -- Experts in Afghanistan believe that the current year will be crucial for Afghans as both the government and Taliban outfit try to consolidate their positions ahead of any possible talks to negotiate from a stronger position.
To persuade the hardliner Taliban group to enter peace talks, Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani offered unconditional talks in late February that include giving recognition to the militant group as a political force and opening an office for the outfit in Kabul or any other city it wants to operate from.
Taliban militants who have yet to respond to the offer for peace talks, according to political observers, are getting ready to soon launch their so-called spring offensive and intensify operations against Afghan and U.S.-led coalition forces stationed in Afghanistan.
"The Taliban group seems to be more aggressive and resolute to continue the fight with new tactics and with new weapons," a retired army general, Ahamd Shah Alami, told Xinhua recently.
The expert also said that the Taliban's recent deadly attack in the Khawaja Omari district in the eastern Ghazni province could be an example of a change in Taliban tactics to focus on high profile targets.
In the surprise attack by the militant group on April 12, according to local officials, more than a dozen people including a district governor were killed and several others injured. According to the expert, the militants used new weapons in attacking the district and inflicting casualties to those inside the compound.
Spring and summer is known as "fighting season" in Afghanistan and traditionally all the fighting forces do their best to expand and consolidate their grip at this time of year ahead of winter in the mountainous land.
Afghan security forces backed by U.S.-led coalition forces have already stepped up crackdowns against militants elsewhere in the militancy-plagued country.
A deadly airstrike against Taliban militants in the northern Kunduz province earlier this month, according to General Mohammad Radmanish, a spokesperson for the Defense Ministry, had left more than a dozen rebels including some senior Taliban commanders dead and injured scores of others.
The official also warned that the government forces would continue to target the insurgents elsewhere in the country.
Echoing the notion, American commander of the U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, has emphasized the need to keep up diplomatic, social and military pressure on the militants in order to bring them to the negotiating table in order to find a negotiated settlement to the country's prolonged conflict.
The Taliban outfit, yet to accept the government's offer for talks, has demanded direct talks with the U.S. and is calling for the complete pullout of foreign forces from Afghanistan.
Amid the government's push for peace talks and mounting military pressure, the enforcer of the southern region and Kandahar police chief, General Abdul Raziq, claimed recently that he had reached a deal with 60 prominent Taliban commanders and senior leaders to join the government-backed peace process.
Parallel to peace efforts, observers believe that both the government and militant groups are also getting prepared for battle to gain more ground during fighting season in spring and summer to secure an upper hand ahead of any possible talks.
"The year 2018 is a decisive year for the people of Afghanistan. Fighting and talks will move forward simultaneously and hopefully the Taliban will lay down their weapons to further their interests through political participation and peaceful means," Mohammad Omer Noori, a professor at Ibne Sina University, told Xinhua.