Conflicts & War

Anti-Taliban forces in volatile Panjshir open to talk but ready to fight

Kabul, Aug 24 (EFE).- Militiamen in the Panjshir Valley of northern Afghanistan are prepared to go to war with the Taliban but have kept the doors ajar for talks in the last military stronghold of resistance against the Islamist movement that seized power in Kabul 10 days ago.

Hundreds of local militiamen and Afghan soldiers, who took refuge in Panjshir after the government of President Ashraf Ghani collapsed, are battle-ready in the valley located north of Kabul.

The forces are preparing under the command of Ahmad Massoud, son of Ahmad Shah Massoud, one of the best-remembered anti-Soviet warlords in the 1980s.

The region is also the base of the so-called “Northern Alliance,” a guerrilla formation of anti-Soviet warlords led by the late resistance fighter known as the “Lion of Panjshir,” who was assassinated in 2001.

The Taliban Monday claimed that they captured three districts in the vicinity of Panjshir and had encircled the province, the only Afghan region that has not fallen into the hands of the Islamist insurgent group.

Parwaize, a battalion commander of Massoud forces, told EFE in a telephonic interview that the Taliban militants were present only in few areas in the outskirts of Panjshir and “not the entire province.”

The forces loyal to Massoud have one hand ready for peace and the other on their guns after their leader opened communication with the insurgents about a possible unity government, he said.

“Massoud’s forces are ready to defend Panjshir if the peace talks did not fructify,” Parwaize said, vowing that they would recapture other provinces in the Panjshir neighborhood.

A shopkeeper in Jabal al-Siraj, neighboring the Panjshir Valley, told EFE that several Afghan military officers, who joined Massoud, shopped at his store.

He said they told him that Massoud was paying their salaries.

Massoud has publicly expressed his willingness to negotiate with the Taliban but refused to accept an extremist government in Kabul.

Massoud was declared the successor to his father by hundreds of supporters from the resistance front at a ceremony two years ago in Panjshir. EFE


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