An anti-Taleban resistance group in Afghanistan claims it has thousands of fighters ready to fight.
It is the Afghan Resistance Front (FRN), whose head of foreign affairs, Ali Nazary, told the BBC that its aim is to achieve a peaceful negotiation.
However, “if that fails, we will not accept any form of aggression,” he added.
The Taleban say they have surrounded the group in the Panjshir Valley and that its members are under siege.
Resistance leaders also indicate that the Taliban are advancing in the region, which lies northwest of the capital, Kabul.
Amrullah Saleh, who was a vice president of the Taliban overthrown government and who took refuge in the Panjshir, posted on Twitter that the Taleban concentrated their forces on the entrance to the Valley.
Saleh, 48, has declared himself president in charge of Afghanistan, in opposition to telebans.
In the Panjshir Valley, there is also Bismillah Mohammadi, who was defense minister in the last Afghan government.
The Panjshir region, in particular the Panjshir Valley, has a reputation for resisting invasion, including from Soviet forces during the Soviet Union’s war in Afghanistan between 1979 and 1989. It also resisted the Taliban’s takeover of the country in the 1990s.
Now the region is under the control of the FRN, founded by Ahmad Massoud, son of the hero of the Soviet and Taliban resistance, Ahmad Shad Massoud.
On behalf of the FRN, Nazary told BBC Radio 4 that resistance forces from various parts of the country had arrived in Panjshir and joined local fighters.
He said the group has “thousands of forces ready for the resistance”, although the BBC has not been able to confirm this claim.
“However, we prefer to seek peace and negotiation before resorting to war and conflict,” said the spokesman.
The FRN’s ultimate goal, he said, is to have a decentralized model of government in the country.
“The FRN believes that for lasting peace, we have to address the underlying problems in Afghanistan,” he said.
“Afghanistan is a country made up of ethnic minorities, nobody is a majority. It is a multicultural state, so power needs to be shared. There must be a power sharing agreement where everyone sees themselves in power.”
For him, if only one group dominates politics, there will be an “internal war and the continuation of the current conflict”.
“We prefer peace, we prioritize peace and negotiations,” said Nazary.
“If that fails, if we see that the other side is not sincere, if we see that it is trying to impose itself on the rest of the country, then we will not accept any form of aggression,” he added.
Nazary also appealed to the Panjshir region’s legacy of resistance, to argue that the Taliban will have difficulty defeating resistance fighters.
“We have already proved who we are. Our descendants have already proven that no one is capable of conquering our region, especially the Panjshir Valley.”
“The Red Army, with all its might, was unable to defeat us. I doubt that any force in Afghanistan today has the power of the Red Army. And the Taliban, 25 years ago, also tried to take the Valley and failed, suffered a devastating defeat.”
The Lion of Panjshir
Ahmad Shah Massoud, father of the FRN founder, was a legendary guerrilla commander who led the resistance to the Soviet Union and commanded the military wing of the Afghan government against rival militias in the 1990s.
After the Taliban took control of the country, he became the main opposition commander to the regime, with the so-called Northern Alliance, until he was assassinated in 2001.
Ahmad Shah Massoud is a revered warlord by many Afghans.
Nicknamed the Lion of Panjshir (Panjshir means five lions), his portrait can be seen in many locations across the Afghan capital, from monuments to billboards and shop windows, and throughout Panjshir province.
Since Massoud’s death in 2001 (two days before the September 11 attacks that brought down the Twin Towers in New York), the region has maintained its legacy of resistance in the fight against the Taliban, explains the BBC Afghan service journalist. Mariam Aman.
Massoud was declared a national hero by President Hamid Karzai, and since 2012, every September 9, his death anniversary is remembered as the Day of the Martyrs and Ahmad Shah Massoud.
In turn, the vice president of the last Afghan civilian government, Amrullah Saleh, was part of the Northern Alliance and was Massud’s trusted man.
Located 150 km northwest of Kabul, the Panjshir Valley is the only one of 34 Afghan provinces not to succumb to Taliban control, becoming the last stronghold of resistance.
The cliffs, gorges and mountains of Panjshir turn the territory into a natural fortress, making access difficult for invaders.
Intersected by the Panjshir River, the Valley lies close to the Hindu Kush Range, a mountainous complex between Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan.
It was an important gateway for the armies of Alexander the Great and Tamerlane, the last of the great nomadic conquerors of Central Asia.
In addition, it has several resources, such as emerald mines, hydroelectric dams and a wind farm.
That is, it is a convenient location for guerrilla warfare.
The area currently has between 150 and 200 thousand inhabitants – almost all of them speak the Persian language and are of the Tayika ethnic group. They represent about a quarter of the 38 million people living in Afghanistan.
It is a historically anti-Taleban population.
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