Afghanistan, the Taliban announce the Panjshir Valley’s fall

Panjshir_Valley

The Taliban announced the capture of the Panjshir Valley, the last stronghold of resistance to the new government. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid revealed, announcing the end of the war in Afghanistan. Yesterday the surrender of the opposing militiamen seemed inevitable. The Taliban army had reached the provincial capital, Bazarak, taking weapons and ammunition.

The Panjshir fighters denied the fall of the region via Twitter, a historic center of resistance against the Soviets in the 1980s and then against the Taliban in the 1990s. However, the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRFA) resumed the negotiations interrupted a week ago more decisively. Ahmad Massoud, son of the national hero “Lion of Panjshir” and leader of the rebel group, declared on Facebook that they want to negotiate an end to the fighting.

With a series of videos on social media, the Taliban celebrated the fall of the capital of Panjshir. They invited anyone who intends to continue hiding in the mountains to come down. “Anyone who takes up arms will be considered an enemy of the country and its people,” Zabihullah Mujahid said in a press conference. However, the intention would be to work for a “stable, Islamic and responsible Afghanistan.” And the inhabitants of the province – guarantees the spokesman – will not suffer discrimination. A promise not reassuring given the retaliation in Kabul against anyone who collaborated with the Western world.

The forces of the NRFA, however, not only do not confirm the surrender but let it be known on Twitter that they are “present in all the strategic positions of the valley to continue the fight.” No talks before the Taliban offensive were ever successful, with the two sides accusing each other of the failure of the negotiations. On the other hand, Panjshir seemed impregnable: it remained inviolate during all the conflicts that have crossed Afghanistan, from the 1970s, and last but not least, to the twenty years of American occupation. In the previous month, however, the secret of the region’s resistance has disappeared. The Taliban have blocked the supply routes leading to the northern border.

So Ahmad Massoud – leading the remnants of the Afghan regular army, special forces units, and local militia fighters – had to yield to pressure from religious groups and the Sunni Ulema Council and attempt to resume negotiations to achieve lasting peace. “The NRFA in principle agrees to resolve the current problems and immediately end the fighting and continue negotiations,” he said on Facebook. The condition, however, would be both sides ceasefire and of any attack or military movement in Panjshir and Andarab, a district in the neighboring province of Baghlan. As for now, the Taliban did not respond because the balance of power in the region has rapidly reversed.

The Resistance Front was further challenged by the death of the official voice of the Fahim Dashti group. A prominent local media personality during previous governments and Massoud’s advisor, he was also linked to the history of the Afghan resistance: grandson of senior official Abdullah Abdullah, later deposed by the Taliban, survived the suicide attack that killed his father by Massoud, Ahmad Shah Massoud, on September 9, 2001, a few days before the attack on the Twin Towers.

The surrender of the Panjshir coincides with the beginning of the visit of the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, to Qatar. The state has welcomed 55,000 refugees evacuated by plane from the United States and is considered one of the most stable regional allies, after the capture of Kabul last August 15 and the escape of the president of the regular government Ashraf Ghani. Blinken plans to meet refugees and diplomats from the US embassy, which moved from Kabul to Doha and will attempt to involve Qataris in efforts – which also involve Turkey – to reopen the airport and evacuate the remaining Afghans. One of the critical issues that NATO allies will discuss with the Taliban in upcoming talks in Germany.

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