Taliban claim capture of areas near Panjshir, heart of anti-insurgent forces
Kabul, Aug 23 (EFE).- The Taliban Monday claimed that they captured three districts in northern Afghanistan and were trying to negotiate a peaceful surrender of Afghan forces and local militia in Panjshir, the heart of military resistance against the Islamist insurgent group.
Spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said Taliban fighters cleared Bannu, Pul-e-Hesar, and Deh Salah districts in Baghlan province.
Mujahid tweeted that the militants were in Badakhshan, Takhar, and Andarab, surrounding the Panjshir valley.
“The Islamic Emirate is trying to resolve the issue peacefully,” Mujahid tweeted, using the formal name of the country under Taliban rule.
Panjshir is the only Afghan province that has not fallen into the hands of the Taliban.
The Islamist militia captured Kabul more than a week ago with lightning speed as Taliban fighters gained control of the town after town weeks after the foreign forces withdrew from the country.
Hundreds of local militiamen and Afghan soldiers, who took refuge in Panjshir after the government of President Ashraf Ghani collapsed, are in the valley located north of Kabul.
Panjshir is also the base of the so-called “Northern Alliance,” a guerrilla formation of anti-Soviet warlords led by famous resistance fighter Ahmad Shah Massoud, known as the “Lion of Panjshir.”
Forces loyal to Massoud, who was assassinated in 2001, have resisted and protected the region for decades from Taliban fighters.
His son Ahmad Massoud leads the militia and hundreds of Afghan soldiers against the Taliban offensive in Panjshir.
Ahmad Massoud has, on several occasions, expressed his willingness to negotiate with the insurgents.
He told Qatari daily Al-Sharq in an interview that his group was ready to speak with the Taliban for “an inclusive government.”
“We already have contacts with the movement. Our joint representatives have met several times,” Ahmad Massoud said.
Those who have gathered in Panjshir include Amrullah Saleh, the vice president in the ousted government of President Ashraf Ghani.
Saleh claimed to be the acting president under the constitution after Ghani fled the country hours before the Taliban entered Kabul.
He is the highest-ranking official of the deposed government in Afghanistan. EFE