Afghan Taliban seek leverage in ‘dangerous’ winter surge

ISLAMABAD (TIP): The Afghan Taliban have launched an unprecedented winter surge that points to a desire for an upper hand in peace talks, analysts say, while some suggest rogue Pakistani elements may be bolstering the effort to derail overtures by Islamabad to India.

Taliban fighting normally quiets down in winter months with the insurgents resting ahead of an annual spring offensive, but this year has seen a series of fierce attacks –many focused on Kabul in recent weeks, including three in the capital since January 7.

Some say the ongoing fighting is a bid by Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour to consolidate his position ahead of four-way talks between Afghanistan, Pakistan, the US and China slated for next week, a precursor to a revived peace dialogue between Kabul and the insurgents.

Ahmed Rashid, a leading expert on the Afghan Taliban, said Mansour was tightening his grip on power through the high-profile attacks, after a shootout between rival insurgent commanders in Pakistan in December left him wounded. (AFP)

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