The Taliban announced on Monday (23) that it has encircled the Panjshir Valley, the only one of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces that still resists the takeover, as well as having regained control of three districts in Baghlan province.
But the extremist group says it wants to negotiate rather than fight the resistance that has been building in the valley steep, mountainous and difficult to access that neither the Soviets in the 1980s nor the Taliban in the 1990s managed to conquer (see below).
VIDEO: Who is Ahmad Massoud, who could become leader of Taliban resistance in Afghanistan
The capital of Panjshir is Bazarak, which is just 120 km northeast of the Afghan capital (about a two-hour drive northeast of the capital Kabul).
The repossessed districts are Bano, Deh Saleh and Pul e-Hesar, in Baghlan province, which borders the Panjshir (see map below).
They had been taken over by local militias last week in one of the first signs of armed resistance to the Taliban, which has returned to power after 20 years.
Taliban retakes 3 districts in Baghlan province and surrounds the Panjshir Valley — Photo: Lucas Sampaio/G1
It is in the Panjshir that two leaders who have risen up against the Taliban are: Ahmad Massoud, the 32-year-old son of the legendary commander Massoud, and Amrullah Saleh, the Afghan first vice president who says he is the country’s “legitimate interim president”.
Saleh, who was one of Massoud’s father’s closest advisers, said on Tuesday that he would “under no circumstances bow” to “Taliban terrorists” and appealed to Afghans: “Join the resistance” .
Massoud has been using the Western press to ask for help, writing in the American newspaper “The Washington Post” and in the French magazine “La Règle du jeu” (“The rule of the game”, in free translation), founded by writer Bernard Henri-Lévy.
Ahmad Massoud, son of anti-Soviet resistance hero Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was killed by the Taliban in 2001, asks for foreign help to organize resistance to the extremist group from Panjshir province in Afghanistan. Photo of September 5, 2019. — Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters
“Our fighters are positioned near Panjshir,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman. “The Islamic Emirate is trying to resolve the problems peacefully.”
In an interview with Reuters news agency, Ahmad Massoud said on Sunday (22) that hopes to maintain peaceful negotiations with the Taliban, but that its forces are ready to fight.
“We want to make the Taliban realize that the only way forward is through negotiations,” Massoud said. “We don’t want a war to start.”
Despite the speech, pro-Taliban Twitter accounts announced Sunday that “hundreds” of fighters were on their way to Panjshir. France Presse news agency reports Unconfirmed reports of clashes around the valley at night.
Also on social media, supporters of the resistance in Panjshir deny any advance by the Taliban, claiming that ambushes have impeded the advance of the extremist group. But official announcements and reports are difficult to confirm with independent sources..
VIDEO: Afghanistan TV news presenter banned from work after Taliban take over
The Panjshir, which means “Five Lions”, is one known as an anti-Taliban stronghold.. The National Resistance Front (FNR) is led by Ahmad Massoud and Amrullah Saleh.
Ahmad Massoud is the son of Commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, a hero of the anti-Soviet resistance in Afghanistan who earned the nickname “Lion of Panjshir”. He is also known as Amir Sahib-e Shahid, which means “our beloved martyred commander”.
To this day, the valley is littered with Soviet armored carcasses destroyed in unsuccessful battles to conquer it. In addition to the Soviet Union, in the 1980s, the Taliban also failed to conquer the Panjshir when it controlled the country between 1996 and 2001.
Massoud father was murdered by al-Qaeda in Takhar province in 2001, at the time of the September 11 terrorist attack that triggered the American invasion of Afghanistan.
Due to common enemies, Panjshir province served as a stronghold for the Northern Alliance, an armed group that allied with the US during the 2001 invasion. to drive the Taliban out of power and drive al-Qaeda out of the country.