Taliban say they took Panjshir as the fight goes on

Photo: AP In this Aug. 25, 2021, file photo, armored vehicles are seen in Panjshir Valley, north of Kabul, Afghanistan.

The Taliban on Monday claimed to have taken control of Panjshir province north of Kabul, the last holdout of anti-Taliban forces in the country. The anti-Taliban resistance, however, said the valley had not yet fallen into the Taliban’s hands and that its fighters continue the fight, Reuters reported.

The Taliban claimed victory on Monday over opposition forces in the Panjshir valley northeast of Kabul, completing their takeover of the country following the stunning capture of Kabul last month and the chaotic withdrawal of foreign troops.

Pictures on social media showed Talibanmembers standing in front of the gate of the Panjshir provincial governor’s compound after fighting over the weekend with the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRFA), led by Panjshiri leader Ahmad Massoud.

“Panjshir province completely fell to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” the Islamist militant group’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said in a tweet on Monday, adding that some enemy fighters had been killed in battle and others had fled. “With this victory and latest efforts our country has come out of the whirlpool of the war and our people will have a happy life in peace, liberty and freedom in the entire country.”

The Taliban assured the people of Panjshir, who are ethnically distinct from the Pashtun-dominated Taliban and fought against the Islamists during their 1996-2001 rule, that there would be no “discriminatory act against them”. “They are our brothers and would work together for a joint purpose and welfare of the country,” Mujahid said.

There was no immediate word from Massoud, who leads a force made up of remnants of regular Afghan army and special forces units as well as local militia fighters.

Ali Maisam Nazary, head of foreign relations at NRFA, said the Taliban’s claim of victory was false and opposition forces continued to fight. “The NRF forces are present in all strategic positions across the valley to continue the fight,” he said on his Facebook page. The Taliban seized control of the rest of Afghanistan three weeks ago, taking power in Kabul on Aug. 15 after the Western-backed government collapsed and President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.

Panjshir was the last pocket of armed resistance against the Taliban. It has a history of being difficult for enemies to take. The rugged mountain valley is still littered with the wreckage of tanks destroyed during the long war against the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

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