The Taliban claimed on Monday to have captured the Panjshir Valley, the final bastion of Afghanistan not firmly below their management, at the same time as representatives of the opposition forces there maintained that they nonetheless had management over strategic positions within the area and vowed to struggle on.
The conflicting accounts of what was taking place on the bottom within the space 70 miles north of Kabul, the nation’s capital, have been arduous to confirm as a result of web and phone service into the area has been reduce off.
If the Taliban has gained management over the rugged area and manages to maintain it below its rule, it might be each a closing strategic victory in its lightning-quick conquest of the nation and a deeply resonant second.
The Taliban by no means managed to manage Panjshir the final time they dominated Afghanistan, from 1996 to 2001, and it was the launching level for the U.S.-led invasion after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist assaults on New York and the Pentagon.
Soviet forces, throughout their occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, made advances into the territory on at the least 9 events, solely to be repelled every time, generally after struggling brutal casualties.
The Taliban have at all times been bitterly against the fighters of the Panjshir and have been complicit within the assassination of their storied commander Ahmad Shah Massoud 20 years in the past.
Whereas rumors of the Taliban’s having taken over in Panjshir swirled this previous weekend, it was not till Monday morning that the group formally claimed management.
“Panjshir Province utterly fell to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s spokesman, wrote in a statement on Twitter.
Taliban fighters posted photographs on-line mentioned to be of militants raising the flag of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, because the Taliban calls the nation, within the provincial capital, Bazarak, in addition to of their forces speaking to native leaders.
However whereas the Taliban claimed that that they had conquered the whole province, the opposition group, the Nationwide Resistance Entrance, disputed that account, saying that its forces have been nonetheless positioned throughout the Panjshir Valley.
“We guarantee the individuals of Afghanistan that the wrestle towards the Taliban and their companions will proceed till justice and freedom prevails,” it said on Twitter.
The resistance group’s chief, Ahmad Massoud, son of Ahmad Shah Massoud, the commander who was assassinated in 2001, issued an audio recording on Monday calling for the nation to stand up towards the Taliban.
“Wherever you’re, whether or not contained in the nation or exterior, we attraction to you to stand up in resistance for the dignity, integrity and freedom of our nation,” he mentioned, based on a transcript of the recording.
He added that, regardless of the Taliban’s claims to desire a peaceable negotiated settlement with the opposition forces, “they started a full-scale army offensive on our individuals which led to quite a few victims, amongst them my shut relations.”
There have been experiences on Sunday of presumably important losses among the many resistance fighters, together with the deaths of a number of commanders and of the resistance spokesman Fahim Dashti.
For its half, the Taliban sought to reassure the native inhabitants that its forces meant them no hurt.
“We give full assurance to the honorable individuals of Panjshir that they won’t be discriminated towards,” Mr. Mujahid, the group’s spokesman, mentioned. “They’re all our brothers, and we are going to serve a rustic and a typical aim.”
Perceive the Taliban Takeover in Afghanistan
Who’re the Taliban? The Taliban arose in 1994 amid the turmoil that got here after the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1989. They used brutal public punishments, together with floggings, amputations and mass executions, to implement their guidelines. Right here’s extra on their origin story and their record as rulers.
The Taliban took over nearly all of Afghanistan with astonishing velocity after the withdrawal of most American forces. The U.S.-trained Afghan safety forces melted away earlier than the militants, generally with out firing a shot, culminating within the Taliban’s seizure on Aug. 15 of Kabul.
The Taliban have but to formally announce the construction of their new authorities however mentioned on Monday that they might quickly provide extra element.
In what seemed to be a bid to attempt to maintain former Afghan troopers within the fold, Mr. Mujahid mentioned that “former forces that have been skilled and are professionals needs to be recruited” into the brand new regime.
That, he added, could be accomplished by means of “a process” that he didn’t elaborate on.
Nonetheless, pockets of resistance in Afghanistan remained, notably within the north, the place the Taliban have lengthy clashed with different paramilitary teams. In late August, a gaggle of former mujahedeen fighters and Afghan commandos mentioned that that they had begun a battle of resistance in Panjshir. A rugged space about 70 miles north of Kabul, Panjshir, with its mountains and craggy valleys, has supplied cowl for insurgents because the Soviet occupation.
The Taliban in current days reported making features towards the resistance forces and killing some senior leaders, together with Mr. Dashti. Ahmad Zia Kechkenni, Mr. Dashti’s brother, mentioned in an interview on Monday that the spokesman “was martyred for defending his individuals and nation, Afghanistan.”
Representatives of the resistance group mentioned that, regardless of the Taliban’s public statements that they have been open to negotiations to discover a peaceable decision, that they had by no means made any critical effort at rapprochement.
Ahmadullah Wasiq, deputy chief of the Taliban’s cultural fee, disputed that declare, saying that his group had beforehand reached out to barter with the resistance. Now it’s too late, he mentioned.
“They’ve missed the chance,” he mentioned, “as a result of the mujahedeen of the Islamic Emirates has taken over nearly the whole province. Nonetheless, in the event that they nonetheless wish to come and give up themselves, they’re welcome.”
Carlotta Gall and Marc Santora contributed reporting.