Resistance Fighters Stand Strong At Panjshir Valley Holdout
The Panjshir is mainly inhabited by ethnic Tajik people but has immense symbolic value in Afghanistan as the area that has always resisted occupation by any invaders in the past.
Now once again Panjshir has become the rallying point for all those who oppose terrorism in any form. Thus all those in Afghanistan who are opposed to the Taliban are now making their way to this province. Panjshir has shown that the hardline Islamists are not the rulers of all Afghanistan.
Anti-Taliban fighters in Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley were battling to repulse heavy assaults, as the Taliban continue to seek the capture of the last holdout province defying their rule. Efforts to strike a peace deal between the two sides have failed, and the Taliban are keen to finish their lightning military offensive which saw them seize control of the rest of Afghanistan last month.
Though Taliban are very well armed, and they have the psychological factor in their favour in that they precipitated the fall of the government so quickly, the terrain is in total favour of Panjshir fighters. Also Tigers of Panjshir are capable of giving it back in equal measures. Geography is totally on the side of the Panjshir’s fighters, the Area cannot be surrounded as claimed by Taliban, though a few roads may be blocked.
The 115-kilometre-long (70-mile-long) valley surrounded by jagged snow-capped peaks offers a natural military advantage, since defending units can use high positions to ambush attacking forces below. Taliban forces have massed around the entrance to the valley but have been hit in ambushes and have sustained heavy casualties. This has been confirmed by various independent reporters.
Till it seems both sides were mainly trying to Push each other in order to strengthen their hand in negotiations, without starting an all-out battle. However according to the latest reports, the Taliban are now summoning forces from other provinces, in order to carry out a massive assault.
The Taliban Now has access to an enormous arsenal of weapons and military kit that the departing US Forces provided to the Afghan army. Taliban also has the support of prisoners they freed from jails. They also have shock troops, including the use of suicide tactics.
However the the National Resistance Front (NRF) holding Panjshir are no push overs. They are made up of anti-Taliban militia fighters and former Afghan security forces. They too have significant weapon stockpiles in theit valley, which lies around 80 kilometres north of Kabul.
On Wednesday, senior Taliban official Amir Khan Muttaqi issued an audio message to say their forces had surrounded the valley, calling on the people of the Panjshir to tell fighters to lay down their arms.
But many Afghans are terrified of a repeat of the Taliban’s harsh rule from 1996 to 2001. The new rulers have pledged this time they will be more accommodating, but many in Panjshir are deeply sceptical. Hours after their warning, Taliban forces launched renewed attacks including from the south of Panjshir from Kapisa, as well as from the Khawak pass to the west of the valley.
Both sides have claimed to have inflicted heavy losses on their rivals. Communications are difficult in the valley, so AFP was unable to verify the reports on the ground.
On Friday, Ali Maisam Nazary, a spokesman for the NRF who is understood to be outside the valley but in close contact with key leader Ahmad Massoud, said there had been more attacks by Taliban forces overnight.
“There is heavy fighting in Panjshir,” Nazary said. “He (Massoud) is busy defending the valley.”
Massoud is the son of the late guerrilla commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, dubbed the “Lion of Panjshir” for holding out first against Soviet and then Taliban forces when they were power before. He is understood to want autonomy for the region. Massoud said in a statement Wednesday that the Taliban had offered them “one or two seats” in their new administration, but he had rejected the deal.
“The Taliban have chosen the path of war,” Massoud said.