Taliban claim control of Panjshir Valley, but resistance vows to fight

The Taliban claimed on Monday that they had captured the Panjshir Valley, hoisting their flag over the last Afghan provincial capital wh...

The Taliban claimed on Monday that they had captured the Panjshir Valley, hoisting their flag over the last Afghan provincial capital which was not firmly under their control, even as representatives of the opposition forces there argued that they would fight from the mountains.

If the Taliban manage to keep Panjshir under control, it would be a symbolic cornerstone of the group’s lightning-fast conquest and return to national power.

The Taliban never succeeded in controlling Panjshir the last time they ruled Afghanistan, from 1996 to 2001, and it was the starting point of the invasion led by the United States after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 on New York and the Pentagon.

Soviet forces, during their occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, made advances in the territory at least nine times, only to be pushed back each time, sometimes after suffering heavy losses.

The Taliban have always been fiercely opposed to Panjshir fighters and were complicit in the assassination of their legendary commander Ahmad Shah Massoud 20 years ago.

While rumors that the Taliban had seized power in Panjshir circulated last weekend, it was not until Monday morning that the group officially claimed control.

“The province of Panjshir has completely fallen into the hands of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” wrote Zabihullah Mujahid, the spokesperson for the Taliban. a statement on Twitter.

Taliban fighters have posted images online that are believed to be of activists hoisting the flag from the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, as the Taliban call the country, in the provincial capital, Bazarak, along with their forces talking to local leaders.

But while the Taliban claimed they had conquered the entire province, the opposition group, the National Resistance Front, disputed this account, saying its forces were still positioned in the Panjshir Valley.

“We assure the Afghan people that the fight against the Taliban and their partners will continue until justice and freedom prevail,” it’s said on Twitter.

Conflicting accounts of what was happening on the ground in the area 70 miles north of Kabul, the country’s capital, were difficult to verify as internet and phone services in the area were cut.

The leader of the resistance group, Ahmad Massoud, son of Ahmad Shah Massoud, the commander assassinated in 2001, released an audio recording on Monday calling on the nation to rise up against the Taliban.

“Wherever you are, whether inside the country or outside, we call on you to stand up in resistance for the dignity, integrity and freedom of our country,” he said. , according to a transcript of the recording.

He added that, despite the Taliban’s claims that they want a peaceful negotiated settlement with the opposition forces, “they have launched a large-scale military offensive against our people which has claimed many lives, including members of my family. close family”.

There were reports on Sunday of potentially large losses among resistance fighters, including the deaths of several commanders and resistance spokesman Fahim Dashti.

For their part, the Taliban sought to reassure the local population that their forces were doing them no harm.

“We give full assurance to the honorable people of Panjshir that they will not suffer any discrimination,” said Mr. Mujahid, spokesperson for the group. “They are all our brothers, and we will serve a country and a common goal. “

The Taliban have taken control of most of Afghanistan with astonishing speed after the withdrawal of most of the US forces. After months of fierce fighting and horrific casualties, U.S.-trained Afghan security forces finally swooped in front of the militants, culminating in the capture of Kabul by the Taliban on August 15.

The Taliban have yet to officially announce the structure of their new government, but said on Monday they would offer more details soon.

In what appeared to be an attempt to try to keep former Afghan soldiers in the fold, Mujahid said “old forces that have been trained and are professionals should be recruited” into the new regime.

This, he added, would be done through a “procedure” that he did not detail.

Credit…via Reuters

Yet pockets of resistance remain in Afghanistan, particularly in the north, where the Taliban have long clashed with other paramilitary groups. At the end of August, a group of former Mujahedin fighters and Afghan commandos declared that they had started a war of resistance in Panjshir. A rugged area about 70 miles north of Kabul, the Panjshir, with its rugged mountains and valleys, has provided cover for insurgents since the Soviet occupation.

In recent days, the Taliban have said they have won against resistance forces and killed some senior leaders, including Mr. Dashti. Ahmad Zia Kechkenni, the brother of Mr. Dashti, said Monday in an interview that the spokesman “was martyred for having defended his people and his country, Afghanistan”.

Representatives of the resistance group said that despite public statements by the Taliban that they were open to negotiations to find a peaceful solution, they had never made a serious reconciliation effort.

Ahmadullah Wasiq, deputy head of the Taliban’s cultural commission, disputed the claim, saying his group had already reached out to negotiate with the resistance. Now it is too late, he said.

“They missed the opportunity,” he said, “because the mujahedin in the Islamic Emirates have taken over almost the entire province. However, if they still want to come and surrender, they are welcome.

Carlotta Gall and Marc Santora contributed reports.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Taliban claim control of Panjshir Valley, but resistance vows to fight
Taliban claim control of Panjshir Valley, but resistance vows to fight
Newsrust - US Top News
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