- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Tuesday said he is directing the military to position into an “offensive” mode in the wake of an attack on a maternity hospital in Kabul that killed 24 women, nurses and newborn babies.

The directive marks a shift in the previous defensive stance taken by the Afghan military toward the Taliban and other militant groups as part of efforts to draw down violence in the war-torn country and move towards peace.

“In order to provide security for public places and to thwart attacks and threats from the Taliban and other terrorist groups, I am ordering Afghan security forces to switch from an active defense mode to an offensive one and to start their operations against the enemies,” Mr. Ghani said in a televised address.

Gunmen on Tuesday stormed the 100-bed hospital in an attack that set off an hourslong shootout with police. Local security forces have said they rescued about 100 women and children from the scene.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack that injured at least 16, but the Taliban has pointed blame at the Islamic State terror group.

The attack has prompted widespread condemnation from the international community, including U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who called the incident a “sheer act of evil.”

The fatal attack came more than two months after the U.S. and Taliban struck an “understanding” to decrease violence in Afghanistan that was expected to bring both sides closer to an agreement to end America’s longest war.

Since March 1, the Taliban has carried out roughly 55 attacks per day, according to the Afghan National Security Council. The Pentagon’s Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction last week said the significant uptick in March attacks was “above seasonal norms.”

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