Panjshir resistance leader urges national uprising against Taliban

Taliban claim they have control of last remaining resistance pocket in Afghanistan

The leader of the resistance movement in Afghanistan's Panjshir Valley on Monday called for a "national uprising" against the Taliban.

In an audio message, National Resistance Front commander Ahmad Massoud said: "Wherever you are, inside or outside, I call on you to begin a national uprising for the dignity, freedom and prosperity of our country."

Earlier, the Taliban claimed to have taken control of the capital of Panjshir, a steep valley where thousands of former Afghan army soldiers, resistance fighters and anti-Taliban figures gathered after the country fell to the insurgent force last month.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a tweet that the group had taken the capital of the area and was now in control of the valley. He assured people that the leadership that will be put in control will be from the area.

He also said the Taliban would soon be announcing a government, although it would was likely to be an interim administration.

“Panjshir province completely fell to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” he said.

Some resistance fighters were killed in battle, others fled and the Taliban captured large quantities of weapons and ammunition, he said.

The last anti-Taliban forces in Afghanistan acknowledged suffering major battlefield losses and have called for a ceasefire. The National Resistance Front proposed that the Taliban stop its military operations in Panjshir and withdraw.

“In return, we will direct our forces to refrain from military action,” the resistance said in a statement.

The resistance includes local fighters loyal to Ahmad Massoud, the son of the anti-Soviet and anti-Taliban late commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, as well as remnants of the Afghan military that retreated to the Panjshir Valley.

Mr Massoud insisted he was he was in the province and still fighting in an audio message released on Monday, despite Taliban claims he had left the country alongside former Vice President Amrullah Saleh.

The statement was backed by local sources.

“The fighters have retreated to villages and the mountains. But the resistance leaders are still in Panjshir and fighting,” a local source told The National, on condition of anonymity.

He also alleged that Pakistani drones and aircrafts had bombed several parts of the Panjshir Sunday night, including Mr Saleh's residence.

Mr Massoud also accused foreign actors of backing the Taliban.

“Yesterday’s attack clearly showed that the foreign forces are backing the Taliban. They are fighting with the Taliban against the people of Afghanistan. They have been part of Taliban and still are,” he said, referring to Pakistan's support of and involvement in the Taliban militancy.

Pakistan has frequently denied these claims, but the country's chief of intelligence, Faiz Hamid, arrived in Kabul on Saturday. “What you are watching today is a preview of our future,” Mr Masood warned.

“A future that is supported by the foreigners and their representatives. They want to enforce their agenda on Afghanistan. They don’t want an Afghanistan without stability, economic and political, culture, and unity,” he accused the neighbouring country of encouraging instability in Afghanistan.

The group said on Sunday that spokesman Fahim Dashti, an Afghan journalist, and Gen Abdul Wadud had been killed in fighting.

As battles raged in the valley on Sunday, Mr Massoud said he welcomed proposals from religious scholars for a negotiated settlement. Several attempts at talks were held after clashes erupted about two weeks ago but they broke down, with each side blaming the other for their failure.

The Taliban seized control of almost all of Afghanistan three weeks ago, taking power in Kabul on August 15 after the western-backed government collapsed and President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.

The Panjshir Valley is famous for being the site of resistance to Soviet forces in the 1980s and the Taliban in the late 1990s. But observers said the National Resistance Front was struggling.

Humanitarian crisis

Former vice-president Amrullah Saleh, who is in Panjshir beside Mr Massoud, spoke of a humanitarian crisis, with thousands “displaced by the Taliban onslaught".

As the Taliban consider their transition from insurgency to government they are facing a host of challenges, including humanitarian needs for which international assistance is critical.

UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths has arrived in Kabul for meetings with the Taliban leadership, which has promised to help.

“The authorities pledged that the safety and security of humanitarian staff, and humanitarian access to people in need, will be guaranteed and that humanitarian workers, both men and women, will be guaranteed freedom of movement,” a statement from UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

The international community is coming to terms with the Taliban regime with a flurry of diplomacy.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was scheduled to arrive in Qatar on Monday, though he was not expected to meet the militants, who keep an office in Doha.

Qatar, home to a major US military base, has been the gateway for 55,000 people flown out of Afghanistan, nearly half of the total removed by US-led forces after the Taliban takeover.

He will also speak to the Qataris about efforts alongside Turkey to reopen Kabul's airport, which is necessary for flying in humanitarian aid and completing evacuations.

Mr Blinken will then head on Wednesday to the US airbase in Ramstein, Germany, a temporary home for thousands of Afghans moving to the US, from which he will hold an online 20-nation ministerial meeting on the crisis accompanied by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday called for dialogue with the Taliban on the evacuation from Afghanistan.

“We simply have to talk to the Taliban about how we can get people who have worked for Germany out of the country and bring them to safety,” she told reporters.

Updated: September 7th 2021, 6:37 AM
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