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NATO can help secure Afghan elections

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY) –┬áNATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday NATO forces could help ensure the security of Afghanistan’s scheduled election on October 20, while the Taliban announced the start of the spring offensive.

“The Taliban must understand that they will never win in the battlefield,” he told a news conference on the eve of a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels.

“She has to come to the negotiating table.”

“We will continue to train and support the Afghan national security forces, which would provide the framework and conditions and allow the Taliban at some point to sit down and negotiate a peaceful solution,” he said.

“However, I also think of a limited role for the NATO forces to help ensure that the elections are held safely,” he said.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani made an offer to the Taliban for peace talks in February. However, the movement rejected it and launched its spring offensive on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, the Taliban announced the launch of the “trench operation,” adding that the operation would target US forces, “intelligence agents” and “local supporters.”

The Taliban said the attack was a partial response to US President Donald H. Trump’s new strategy for Afghanistan, which he announced in August and gives US troops a greater margin of maneuver to pursue Islamist militants.

The spring offensive usually marks the beginning of the fighting season, but this winter saw the Taliban continue to fight against US and Afghan forces normally.

Afghan forces are facing pressure on multiple fronts as they prepare to organize the much-delayed legislative elections.

The Taliban’s launch of the spring offensive as Kabul continues to register voters in preparation for the legislative elections, which is a preliminary test of the presidential election in 2019.

Since the start of voter registration on 14 April, attacks have been taking place in the Gore and Badges districts. On Sunday, at least 57 people, including women and children, were killed and 119 wounded in a suicide attack on a voter registration center in Kabul.

The Islamic state has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Western and Afghan officials believe the group is receiving support from other groups, including the Haqqani network linked to the Taliban, for similar attacks.