UN condemns Taliban's spring offensive in Afghanistan
The United Nations Security Council condemned Afghanistan's Taliban on Monday for announcing a spring offensive and called on all parties to instead seize the opportunity to begin talks.
In a unanimous statement, the council said the Taliban's announcement will "only result in more unnecessary suffering and destruction for the Afghan people."
The Taliban launched attacks near the northern city of Kunduz and in Kabul on Saturday, hours after announcing the start of the spring offensive.
At least nine people were killed and scores wounded in those attacks, according to Afghan officials.
The bloodshed came as the US pushes for a peace settlement with the Taliban, and ahead of a new round of talks expected to take place in Qatar later this month.
The Security Council "called on all parties to the conflict to seize the opportunity to begin an inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations that result in a political settlement," said the statement.
US officials have already met several times with the Taliban and further talks are expected in the Qatari capital Doha later this month that would include Afghan political leaders.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the US diplomat who has held several rounds of talks with the Taliban in hopes of reaching a peace deal, called the announcement of the spring offensive "reckless" and "irresponsible."
To facilitate travel to Doha, the council has lifted travel bans for 11 Taliban delegates, including Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a cofounder of the Islamist movement and its top political leader, as well as Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, the Taliban's former deputy minister of foreign affairs.