Kabul: Defying insurgents, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani today condemned the wave of militant attacks striking his country ahead of the withdrawal of most foreign troops, vowing: "We will never surrender."
In a televised speech to mark Afghanistan's Human Rights Day, Ghani called on all religious, political and social leaders to condemn the violence. At one point, he even shouted "Enough!"
Ghani's words come just two weeks ahead of the withdrawal of most international combat troops, 13 years after the US-led invasion following the Sept 11 terror attacks removed the Taliban from power.
Ahead of the pullout, Taliban insurgents have launched a series of high-profile attacks across the country, including those targeting foreigners in the capital, Kabul. Yesterday alone, insurgents killed at least 19 people, including 12 clearing land mines in the country's south and a senior official of the country's Supreme Court.
Ghani has made few public remarks about the violence that has intensified since he took office in September, though regularly visits victims of attacks in the hospital and at their homes.
In his speech today, Ghani offered no specifics about his plans to combat the surging insurgents. His administration has embarked on a top-to-bottom review of the country's military and security strategy, promising to remove provincial governors and other security officials.
The uptick in Taliban attacks come after Ghani signed a bilateral security agreement with Washington and a status of forces agreement with NATO that his predecessor Hamid Karzai declined to sign. US President Barack Obama also has approved an expanded combat mission authorizing American troops to engage Taliban insurgents not just al-Qaida and to provide air support when needed.
From Jan 1, NATO will maintain a force of 13,000 troops in Afghanistan, down from a peak of about 140,000 in 2011. As of December 1, there were some 13,300 NATO troops in the country. By the end of 2015, American officials say the US troop total will shrink to 5,500, and to near zero by the end of 2016.