The Weekend Leader - Taliban resistance forming in last remaining holdout of Panjshir Valley

Taliban resistance forming in last remaining holdout of Panjshir Valley

New Delhi



The Panjshir Valley is Afghanistan's last remaining holdout where anti-Taliban forces seem to be working on forming a guerrilla movement to take on the Islamic fundamentalist group.

A Taliban resistance is forming in Panjshir Valley under the leadership of Vice President Amrullah Saleh and Ahmad Massoud, the son of a famed anti-Taliban fighter, said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

"The Taliban doesn't control the whole territory of Afghanistan," Lavrov told reporters at a press conference in Moscow following a meeting with his Libyan counterpart.

"There are reports of the situation in the Panjshir Valley where the resistance of Afghanistan's Vice President Saleh and Ahmad Massoud is concentrated," he said, TRT World reported.

The Panjshir Valley in the northeast of Kabul is Afghanistan's last remaining holdout, known for its natural defences.

The region, located 150 km northeast of Kabul, now hosts some senior members of the ousted Afghanistan government, including the deposed Saleh and ex-Defence Minister Bismillah Mohammadi, DW reported.

Saleh has declared himself the caretaker President of Afghanistan after ousted President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.

"I will never, ever and under no circumstances bow to the Taliban terrorists. I will never betray the soul and legacy of my hero Ahmad Shah Masoud, the commander, the legend and the guide," Saleh wrote on Twitter.

France 24 reported that in a photo released after Ghani fled the country, Ahmad Massoud sits under the portrait of his father and namesake, the legendary Afghan resistance hero, Ahmad Shah Massoud. By his side in an undisclosed location in Panjshir Valley is Saleh.

From this pocket of resistance, the two men are calling for retaliation against the Taliban.

The Panjshir Valley has repeatedly played a decisive role in Afghanistan's military history, as its geographical position almost completely cuts it off from the rest of the country. The only access point to the region is through a narrow passage created by the Panjshir River, which can be easily defended militarily.

Famed for its natural defences, the region tucked into the Hindu Kush mountains never fell to the Taliban during the civil war of the 1990s, nor was it conquered by the Soviets a decade earlier. It is now Afghanistan's last remaining holdout, DW reported.

Most of the valley's up to 150,000 inhabitants belong to the Tajik ethnic group, while the majority of the Taliban are Pashtuns.

The valley is also known for its emeralds, which were used in the past to finance the resistance movements against those in power.

Now, the son of Ahmad Shah Massoud, Ahmad Massoud, says he is hoping to follow in his "father's footsteps".

Massoud, who closely resembles his father in appearance, commands a militia in the valley.

He said he has been joined by former members of the country's special forces and soldiers from the Afghan army who are "disgusted by the surrender of their commanders".

Social media images show Saleh meeting with Massoud, and the duo appears to be assembling the first pieces of a guerrilla movement to take on the Taliban.

Massoud has also called on the US to supply arms and ammunition to his militia.

In an op-ed in The Washington Post, Ahmad Massoud said "America can still be a great arsenal of democracy" by supporting his fighters.

"I write from the Panjshir Valley today, ready to follow in my father's footsteps, with mujahideen fighters who are prepared to once again take on the Taliban," he said.

Russia also emphasised on Thursday that a resistance movement was forming in the Panjshir Valley, led by Saleh and Massoud.

"The Taliban doesn't control the whole territory of Afghanistan," Lavrov said, DW reported.

It is, however, not clear how strong this new anti-Taliban resistance movement is and how the new rulers in Kabul will react to it.

"If we can take the Taliban at their word, then Panjshir should be safe because the war in Afghanistan is over. The Taliban have pledged to stop using force, which suggests that they will leave areas not controlled by the Taliban alone. But we will have to wait and see," Michael Kugelman, a South Asia expert at the Washington-based Wilson Center, told DW.

He added: "But if an organised military resistance forms in the region, I don't think it's out of the question that the Taliban will go against it. And if they do, they will win quickly and easily."-IANS

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