Taliban say they took Panjshir, last Afghan province – .

Taliban say they took Panjshir, last Afghan province – .

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – The Taliban on Monday announced it had taken control of Panjshir province north of Kabul, the last stronghold of anti-Taliban forces in the country and the only province the Taliban failed to seize in their blitz across Afghanistan last month.

Thousands of Taliban fighters invaded eight districts of Panjshir overnight, according to witnesses in the region who requested anonymity, fearing for their safety. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid issued a statement, saying the Panjshir was now under the control of Taliban fighters.

“We did our best to resolve the issue through negotiations, and they rejected the talks and then we had to send our forces to fight,” Mujahid said at a press conference in Kabul.

The anti-Taliban forces were led by former vice president Amrullah Saleh and also the son of iconic anti-Taliban fighter Ahmad Shah Massoud who was killed just days before the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States. United.

Meanwhile, in northern Balkh province, at least four planes chartered to evacuate several hundred people seeking to escape the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan have not been able to leave the country for days. conflicting testimony on why the flights were unable to take off as pressure mounts on the United States to help those who remain flee, officials said on Sunday.

An Afghan official at the airport in the city of Mazar-e-Sharif, the provincial capital, said the potential passengers were Afghans, many of whom did not have passports or visas, and therefore could not leave the country. Speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to reporters, he said they left the airport while the situation was being resolved.

The top Republican on the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, however, said the group included Americans and they were seated on planes, but the Taliban would not let them take off, “holding them hostage. “. Representative Michael McCaul of Texas told “Fox News Sunday” that US citizens and Afghan interpreters were being held up in six planes.

McCaul did not say where this information came from and it was not immediately possible to reconcile the two accounts.

The final days of the United States’ 20-year war in Afghanistan were marked by a heartbreaking airlift at Kabul airport to evacuate tens of thousands of people – Americans and their allies – who feared what the future would hold for them, given the history of the repression of the Taliban, in particular of the women. However, when the last American troops withdrew on August 30, many were left behind.

The United States has vowed to continue working with the new Taliban leadership to bring out those who want to leave, and activists have pledged to allow anyone with the appropriate legal documents to leave.

Experts doubted whether resistance to the Taliban in Panjshir, the last resistant province, could be successful in the long term despite the region’s geographic advantage.

Nestled in the towering Hindu Kush Mountains, the Panjshir Valley has a single narrow entrance. Local fighters pushed back the Soviets there in the 1980s and the Taliban a decade later under Massoud’s leadership.

Massoud’s son Ahmad called an end to the fighting on Sunday. The UK-trained young Massoud said his forces were ready to lay down their arms, but only if the Taliban agreed to end their assault. Late Sunday, dozens of vehicles loaded with Taliban fighters were seen invading the Panjshir Valley.

There was no statement from Saleh, the former Afghan vice president who declared himself interim president after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country on August 15 as the Taliban reached the gates of the capital. The Taliban then entered the presidential building that day.

The Taliban blitz across the country took less than a week to invade some 300,000 Afghan government troops, most of whom surrendered or fled.

The fate of Saleh and young Massoud was not immediately known.

Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, sought to assure Panjshir residents that they would be safe, even as dozens of families reportedly fled into the mountains before the Taliban arrived.

“We give full confidence to the honorable people of Panjshir that they will not be subjected to any discrimination, that all are our brothers and that we will serve a country and a common goal,” Mujahid’s statement said.

“There is no longer a need to fight,” Mujahid said at the press conference. “All the inhabitants of Panjshir and those who live in Panjshir are our brothers and they are part of our country. “

The Taliban had stepped up their assault on Panjshir on Sunday, tweeting that their forces had invaded Rokha district, one of the largest of the province’s eight districts. Several Taliban delegations attempted negotiations with the holdouts, but the talks failed to gain ground.

Fahim Dashti, the spokesperson for the anti-Taliban group, was killed in action on Sunday, according to the group’s Twitter account. Dashti was the voice of the group and a prominent media figure under previous governments.

He was also the nephew of Abdullah Abdullah, a senior former government official involved in negotiations with the Taliban over the future of Afghanistan.


Associated Press writer Rahim Faiez in Istanbul contributed to this report.


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