Taliban vs Resistance: What is happening in Panjshir Valley?
Panjshir is the only province of Afghanistan that is still out of Taliban control. A fierce fighting is going on in the Panjshir Valley, situated north of Kabul.
The Taliban, only a few days ago, while the American forces were inside Afghanistan, presented its moderate side, saying they would look for a negotiated deal with the Resistance Force in the Panjshir Valley. Panjshir is the only province of Afghanistan that is still out of Taliban control.
A fierce fighting is going on in the Panjshir Valley, situated north of Kabul. There are claims and counterclaims from both sides but little credible means to verify those claims.
The possibility of a negotiated deal with the Resistance Force ended with the departure of the US forces. The Taliban, reports in Reuters and the BBC said, blamed the Resistance Force for failed negotiations. Talks failed as both sides took contrasting positions over power-sharing deals, reports said.
Now, there are reports that the Taliban are fighting the Resistance Force on two fronts. In the areas of their influence, the Taliban are reportedly searching for and executing sentences against senior government and police officials who sided with the previous government or the Resistance Force, in sharp contradiction to the moderate image that their spokespersons are presenting in the interviews with news agencies.
What is happening currently in Panjshir Valley?
It is the region held by a joint military force that is opposing Taliban rule over Afghanistan. The leaders of this collaborative force are local warlord Ahmad Massoud and former Vice-President Amrullah Saleh. Both are ethnic Tajik but the force is multi-ethnic. The Taliban are predominantly Pashtuns.
The group has been named the National Resistance Force (NRF). The Taliban have claimed that they have seized NRF’s territory, inflicting heavy losses on the group.
The NRF, however, said it controlled all entrances to the Panjshir Valley and that the Taliban had suffered hundreds of fighters in the ongoing battle.
How strong is the NRF?
The NRF are a multi-ethnic force comprising about 10,000-15,000 soldiers. These soldiers are drawn from Ahmad Massoud’s own tribal force, those led by Amrullah Saleh and smaller tribal leaders, and those who lost the war against the Taliban but did not join the Islamist group.
Ahmad Massoud, 32, has emerged as the key figure. His father, Ahmad Shah Massoud, was a national hero for Afghanistan in the war against the Soviet Union’s army. He later fought the Taliban in the 1990s and was assassinated in a Taliban-al-Qaeda plot just two days before the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
Ahmad Massoud studied at King’s College London and earned a graduation degree from Sandhurst Military Academy. The photographs emerging from Panjshir Valley have led experts to say that forces are well-trained and equipped.
What does the NRF want?
The NRF has been advocating a participatory democratic political setup in Afghanistan. In an interview with CNN, Massoud said, “democracy, the rights and freedom of all citizens, regardless of their race and gender, should be preserved”.
The Taliban have put restrictions on women and their return has raised concerns about the rights and freedom of non-Pashtun communities in Afghanistan.
What do the Taliban want?
The Taliban have announced an Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan. They have said Afghanistan is home for all Afghans. However, the NRF does not believe their assurances and announced it will continue to fight them for the “liberation of all Afghan people”.
Famed for its gems and minerals, Panjshir is a coveted treasure for the Taliban, who are cash strapped. They managed funds through illegal drugs sale, extortions, donations and secret funding from abroad to wage an insurgency fight against the previous Afghan government. But they need bigger funds to run a government in the country. Panjshir could be a long-term revenue provider to the Taliban.