March 8, 2020
Afghanistan’s defense minister says the government forces would switch from ‘defense mode’ to offensive if the Taliban militant group does not stop attacks by the end of the week.
“Afghan forces will remain in defense mode until the end of this week under the guidance of President Ashraf Ghani because of the peace agreement, but if the Taliban do not stop their attacks by the end of the week, our troops will target the enemy everywhere,” Asadullah Khalid said in a statement on Sunday.
Taliban have ramped up violence against Afghan security forces in recent days. Last week, they carried out over a dozen attacks on Afghan military bases in 13 of the country’s 34 provinces.
The United States and Taliban have signed an agreement aimed at ending the 19-year-old war in Afghanistan.
A week-long truce between the Taliban, the US, and Afghan forces, which preceded the February 29 signing of the deal, was violated shortly after it was signed.
The deal sets out a timetable for the foreign forces to quit Afghanistan within 14 months, subject to a pledge by the militants to hold talks with the Kabul government.
The agreement also calls for up to 5,000 jailed Taliban prisoners to be released in exchange for up to 1,000 Afghan government captives by March 10.
The Ghani administration has since rejected that demand. The president says the issue has to be discussed as part of a comprehensive peace deal that includes the Kabul government.
Taliban now control or hold influence over more Afghan territory than at any point since 2001.
The militants have long demanded the withdrawal of foreign troops, calling them an “occupation” force, and blaming them for almost two decades of war.