KABUL, Afghanistan – Defying insurgents, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday 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, Ghani called on all religious, political and social leaders to condemn the violence. At one point, he even shouted: "Enough! No more!"
"This is unacceptable, it is un-Islamic, it is inhuman," he said, referring the death of a university student in an attack targeting parliamentarian Shukria Barakzai and the suicide bombing of a volleyball tournament that killed about 50 people last month.
Ghani's words come just two weeks ahead of the withdrawal of most international combat troops, 13 years after the U.S.-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. On Saturday 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 shot dead outside his home in Kabul.
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 Sunday, 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. His foreign policy aims to pressure Pakistan into halting cross-border attacks by the Taliban and the Haqqani network.
The uptick in Taliban attacks comes 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. U.S. 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.