Former Afghan government forces forming a resistance movement in a fortified valley are preparing for a “protracted conflict,” but are also seeking negotiations with the Taliban, their spokesperson told AFP in an interview.
Since the Taliban took control of the country following a lightning strike in the capital Kabul, thousands of people have fled to Panjshir to join the fight and find a safe haven to continue their lives, said Ali Maisam. Nazary.
There, Ahmad Massoud, the son of the legendary Mujahedin commander Ahmad Shah Massoud who was assassinated by al-Qaeda two days before the September 11, 2001 attacks, assembled a fighting force of around 9,000 people, Nazary added.
Photos taken by AFP during training drills show dozens of recruits performing fitness drills and a handful of armored humvees crossing the valley northeast of Kabul.
The main objective of the National Resistance Front is to prevent further bloodshed in Afghanistan and to lobby for a new system of government.
But Nazary said the group is also prepared for the conflict, and if the Taliban don’t negotiate, they will face resistance across the country.
“The conditions for a peace deal with the Taliban are decentralization – a system that guarantees social justice, equality, rights and freedom for all,” said Nazary, NRF foreign relations official, adding that if the Taliban did not agree, there would be a “long-term conflict”.
Talks between local leaders in northern Afghanistan and Pakistani authorities were taking place until just a few days ago, he added.
With the Taliban in control of the vast majority of Afghanistan, Nazary optimistically highlighted reports that local militias in some districts have already started to resist their hardline rule and have forged links with the NRF in Massoud.
“Massoud didn’t order these things to happen but they are all associated with us,” Nazary said.
“The Taliban are overwhelmed. They cannot be everywhere at the same time. Their resources are limited. They do not have the support of the majority.
He said, however, that Masood held different views from Amrullah Saleh, the country’s most recent vice president, also locked in the valley and who last week vowed to lead an uprising.
“Mr. Saleh is at Panjshir. He chose to stay in the country and not to flee, ”said Nazary, noting that Saleh’s strong anti-Pakistani stance was at odds with Massoud who wanted good relations with the Afghan neighbor who supports the Taliban.
“Mr. Saleh is anti-Taliban and anti-Pakistani. That doesn’t mean he’s part of this movement. He is in Panjshir and he is respected. “
The current objective is to defend the Panjshir and its people, Nazary said.
“If there is aggression because our fight is only for defense, if someone attacks us, we will defend ourselves. ”
– Safety zone –
Along with Massoud’s fighting forces, the Panjshir now hosts more than 1,000 displaced people from all over Afghanistan who have rushed into the valley in search of sanctuary, Nazary said.
“We see Panjshir becoming a safe area for all those groups who feel threatened in other provinces. “
He added that the province has seen an influx of intellectuals, women’s and human rights activists, and politicians “who feel threatened by the Taliban.”
Massoud called for arms in the United States in an op-ed published Thursday in the Washington Post. Nazary told AFP they also needed humanitarian aid to feed and care for the new arrivals.
Massoud is determined to support the people of the valley and take on the role of his father, added Nazary, stressing that Afghanistan needs a federated system of government to end its endless cycle of war.
“The war is just a by-product of the conflict in Afghanistan. What caused the conflict is that Afghanistan is a country made up of ethnic minorities… (and) in a multiethnic country, one ethnic group cannot dominate politics and others with a presence in the margins. “
Nazary says resistance from Massoud, and others across Afghanistan, is vital for this change to happen.
“Panjshir has always been a beacon of hope. “
© 2021 AFP