Afghanistan withdrawal: Anti-Taliban resistance grows in Panjshir Valley as soldiers clash

An army that plans to overthrow the newly-in-control Taliban is growing in the north of Afghanistan – with the bitter foes already being involved in a deadly clash.

Afghans have woken to the start of another uncertain era after the last American forces flew out of Kabul Airport, cementing victory for the Taliban after two decades of war.

Many are afraid that the group will once again impose their harsh interpretation of Islamic law, brutally punishing their opponents and locking away Afghan women as they did during their 1996-2001 regime.

And while many Afghans – especially in rural areas – are also relieved the war has ended, the country still faces huge economic, political and security challenges.

The Taliban faces its strongest resistance in the north of Afghanistan, where a resistance army is growing in the Panjshir Valley.

The valley has long been a stronghold in Afghanistan, thanks to its natural defences, and has never fallen to the Taliban or the Soviets.

Photos showed the resistance fighters participating in a training camp in the valley.

Reports have also surfaced that the Taliban lost a number of soldiers on Monday night when they clashed with resistance fighters.

The Taliban are arguably in a stronger position than they were when the group first took over Afghanistan in 1996. Some of their biggest foes from the past have fled or been captured, including warlords Abdul Rashid Dostum and Ismail Khan.

Only one major pocket of armed resistance remains, the resistance in the Panjshir Valley.

On the other side of the spectrum, the bitter rivalry between the Taliban and the Islamic State group also poses a threat.

Both groups see themselves as the true standard-bearers of jihad, and IS’ local chapter – ISIS-K – has been highly critical of the Taliban’s deal with Washington that led to the withdrawal.

The Taliban claims it will form an “inclusive” government, and talks to set it up are under way.

So far, they have held talks with bitter former opponents such as ex-president Hamid Karzai and elders from the ethnic Tajik-dominated Panjshir Valley.

Last week, Ahmad Wali Massoud, the brother of the famed Mujahideen leader Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was killed by al-Qaeda in 2001, said the resistance was growing.

Ahmad Massoud, the son of the slain Panjshir commander, is leading the anti-Taliban forces alongside the former vice-president Amrullah Saleh.

“If the Taliban want to attack, people have the right to resist, to stand against the Taliban. The geography of the resistance has expanded so much across Afghanistan,” Wali Massoud said.

Ahmad Shah Massoud was nicknamed the “Lion of Panjshir” for his role in fighting the Soviet occupation in the 1980s and the Taliban regime in the 1990s.

He was assassinated by al-Qaeda two days before the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Wali Massoud said the resistance forces were prepared for a grinding guerrilla struggle with the Taliban, just as the hardliners had waged an armed struggle against NATO forces for two decades.

“Our guys have a lot of experience … If it comes to a resistance, we are pretty sure that across Afghanistan, there will be warfare everywhere to exhaust the Taliban. That will be guerrilla resistance, military resistance, but at the same time there will be political resistance.”

He argued that “the beliefs of the people of Afghanistan have changed in the past 20 years”. “There has been a big jump,” Wali Massoud said. “The women of Afghanistan are the resistance, because their values are very different from the ones of the Taliban.

“The young generations of Afghanistan, which make up 70 per cent of the population, they are part of the resistance.

“No matter what happens, resistance will continue. It is freedom fight for a universal belief, for universal rights. It will never die.”

Ahmad Massoud has vowed to never surrender but told Paris Match last week he was open to negotiation.

Massoud claimed “thousands” of men were joining his National Resistance Front in the Panjshir Valley, which was never captured by invading Soviet forces in 1979 or the Taliban during their first period in power from 1996-2001.

With AFP

Originally published as Afghanistan withdrawal: Anti-Taliban resistance grows in Panjshir Valley as soldiers clash

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