Monday Sep 06, 2021
KABUL: Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid Monday said the group has taken complete control of the Panjshir province, after intense clashes between the group and National Resistance Front (NRF) broke out over the last couple of days in the contested valley.
Pictures on social media showed Taliban members standing in front of the gate of the Panjshir provincial governor’s compound.
However, the claim was contested by the resistance forces in Panjshir, who said that reports of the Taliban taking complete control of the restive valley were untrue.
"NRF forces are stationed at all key positions on the valley to continue the battle," said the resistance forces. "The struggle for justice, freedom will continue against the Taliban and their partners."
AFP adds: The last anti-Taliban forces in Afghanistan have acknowledged suffering major battlefield losses and called for a ceasefire, as the top US diplomat flew to Qatar to try and handle the chaotic aftermath of the American withdrawal.
Following their lightning-fast rout of Afghanistan's army last month -- and celebrations Monday when the last US troops flew out after 20 years of war -- the Taliban are seeking to crush the forces defending the mountainous Panjshir Valley.
The NRF proposed in a statement "that the Taliban stop its military operations in Panjshir... and withdraw its forces.
"In return, we will direct our forces to refrain from military action."
The NRF includes local fighters loyal to Ahmad Massoud -- the son of the famous anti-Soviet and anti-Taliban commander Ahmad Shah Massoud -- as well as remnants of the Afghan military that retreated to the Panjshir Valley.
The group said separately in a tweet Sunday that spokesman Fahim Dashty -- a well-known Afghan journalist -- and General Abdul Wudod Zara had been killed in the latest fighting.
The NRF has vowed to fight the Taliban but also said it was willing to negotiate with the group. But initial contact did not lead to a breakthrough.
The Panjshir Valley is famed for being the site of resistance to Soviet forces in the 1980s and the Taliban in the late 1990s, but observers have said the NRF is struggling.
Bill Roggio, managing editor of the US-based Long War Journal, said Sunday that while there was still a "fog of war" -- with unconfirmed reports the Taliban had captured multiple districts -- "it looks bad".
Former vice-president Amrullah Saleh -- who is holed out in Panjshir alongside Ahmad Massoud -- has warned of a humanitarian crisis, with thousands "displaced by the Taliban onslaught".