Fighting rages in Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley as Taliban and resistance demand military gains – .

Fighting rages in Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley as Taliban and resistance demand military gains – .

The final battle in the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan is unfolding in the Panjshir Valley, with increasing rates of fighting, and weather is becoming a critical factor for what lies ahead.
Celebratory gunfire in Kabul on Friday night left at least 17 dead and more than 40 injured after the Taliban said it captured the Panjshir. But the valley had not fallen and the opposition insisted soon after that it had pushed back the Islamists and recaptured the territory.

Claims and counterclaims of supposed victories on both sides continue.

Taliban spokesman Belal Kareemi said on Sunday that all areas of Panjshir had been taken except the capital, Bazarak, and another district, Rokha. The opposition National Resistance Front (NRF) version read: “We allowed the Taliban to intentionally enter the valley and now they are trapped.

“This is a tactic we used in our 1980s playbook when the Soviets entered the valley. The NRF is all over Panjshir and the Taliban have suffered heavy losses. “

The Taliban have said until recently that they would prefer a negotiated settlement in Panjshir, in the same way they have taken control of the rest of the country.

Moving closer to international recognition as Afghanistan’s new government, they do not want large-scale bloodshed to erupt and undermine the narrative of seeking stability, not conflict.

A senior Taliban official said The independent: “We managed to avoid a long civil war with many deaths, like those which followed the departure of the Russians. We think this is recognized by other countries, even by the Americans, and it shows that we want peace now in Afghanistan, not more war. We have had peaceful transfers all over the country: this should also happen in Panjshir. “

But negotiations have gone nowhere so far. The Taliban claim that the opposition rejected their offers. The resistance said it did not trust the Islamists, and that the terms offered would amount to a surrender.

In the meantime, the fighting has intensified. Some Taliban factions are now looking to achieve victory as quickly as possible, while the NRF, on the other hand, wants to hold onto the valley believing that time will buy them support.

There are a number of factors at play. The Taliban are struggling to form a government. Capturing the last enemy-held territory would strengthen their position as undisputed rulers, both at home and abroad, and, according to hardliners, end the need to bring in moderate numbers. .

If I hurt myself, I have a request from you. Shoot me twice in the head. I don’t want to surrender to the Taliban. Already.

Amrullah Saleh

Pakistani intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed arrived in Kabul over the weekend, and his presence, it was claimed, could play a key role in what is happening in the Panjshir.

Resistance leaders, especially former Vice President Amrullah Saleh, who was once the head of the Afghan Intelligence Service (NDS), are staunch adversaries of Pakistan, blaming the country for what happened to Afghanistan in almost all of the announcements they’ve made. .

The ISI has been accused of being linked to the Taliban and other insurgent groups, such as the Haqqani network. One of Lt. Gen. Hameed’s jobs, it is claimed, is to help establish a government that mirrors the vast insurgency, including the Haqqanis and others.

His presence is considered particularly important because Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the leader of the Taliban, has had conflicting relations with Pakistani security services in the past, having been arrested and imprisoned in the country.

Mariam Solaimankhil, head of international relations coordination in former President Ashraf Ghani’s office, tweeted: “From what I hear, the ISI CEO came to Kabul to make sure Baradar didn’t not run this government and Haqqani does. There is a lot of disagreement between the Taliban factions and Baradar called on all his men not to attack the Panjshir. “

It is highly unlikely, in reality, that Sirajuddin Haqqani, the head of the Haqqani network, will replace Baradar as the head of the new government. Pakistani officials deny that Lt. Gen. Hameed is involved in the Panjshir campaign.

But what is happening in Panjshir appears to be a divisive issue between the Taliban and their allies, and could delay decisive military action there.

Such a delay would suit the resistance. Holding back the Taliban for a month would see the onset of winter, and it would be very difficult to maintain military operations on Panjshir terrain for the next five months.

The “Valley of the Five Lions”, flanked by mountains, has proven difficult to break in the past. The Russians did not take it during their war in Afghanistan. And, as a stronghold of the Northern Alliance, it withstood attacks from the Taliban and other Islamist groups during the long and bloody civil war that followed the Soviet withdrawal.

The opposition is hoping that internal strife could erupt among Islamists during the winter recess, that discontent and mistrust against the Taliban could grow elsewhere in the country, and that resistance could begin to garner support from abroad.

This support has proved difficult to obtain so far. It was rumored among former US and British servicemen, many of whom were deployed to Afghanistan while on duty, or later as private security contractors, that Afghans abroad allegedly began to raise funds for private forces to fight the Taliban. But nothing has come of that so far.

It is also clear from discussions with U.S. diplomats that such a move would not receive any support from the Biden administration, which is now on the path to establishing a relationship with the Taliban.

There also appears to be little sympathy for Saleh or other NRF leaders among these diplomats, who fear that American politicians will try to push the country back into conflict by mobilizing support from the armed opposition. A number of Republican members of Congress have already said the United States should support the resistance.

Another resistance leader, Ahmad Massoud, the 32-year-old son of Ahmad Shah Massoud, the famous Mujahideen leader, wrote in Le Washington Post ask for help before the fighting in Panjshir escalates.

“We have reserves of ammunition and weapons that we have patiently gathered since my father’s time, because we knew that day could come. If the Taliban warlords launch an assault, of course they will face fierce resistance from us, ”he said.

This resistance is evident among the combatants, made up of Tajik militias and members of the Afghan security forces. However, they face formidable obstacles, surrounded by enemy territory, outnumbered and armed, with the Taliban now in possession of vast quantities of Western weapons, including artillery and planes captured from troops or their troops. were surrendered when Allied forces withdrew.

But even if the Biden administration washes the hands of the opposition, it is possible that other regional powers, taken by surprise by the collapse of the Ghani government and the triumph of the Taliban, may begin to support the resistance, as they did for the Northern Alliance against the Taliban.

Saleh is now the public face of the resistance, providing a constant stream of provocative messages from the Panjshir. He says that there has been heavy fighting, and that there have been casualties on both sides, and he acknowledges that “there is no doubt that we are in a difficult situation – we are under the invasion. Taliban – but we held the ground, we resisted ”.

The opposition is bitter about how the United States and its allies have moved away.

“The betrayal of Afghanistan by the West is colossal… The scenes at Kabul airport in recent days represented the humiliation of humanity, an embarrassment to any nation involved in Afghanistan since the Taliban were put in. rout by force of the US-led coalition. in the aftermath of the September 11 atrocities, ”Saleh said.

“It’s not just shameful for President Biden, it’s shameful for all of Western civilization. “

Saleh says he knew that when he left for Panjshir it could be a battle to the death.

Speaking to author Kapil Komireddi, he described how he made his chief bodyguard swear on the Koran to carry out his last order: “I told him, we will. [to] Panjshir and the road is already taken. We will fight our way, we will fight it together.

“But if I hurt myself, I have a request for you. Shoot me two bullets in the head. I don’t want to surrender to the Taliban. Already. “


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