Afghanistan: Taliban claims to have seized Panjshir Valley, raise flag over Resistance stronghold

The Taliban claimed to have seized the last province not in their control after their blitz through Afghanistan last month, overrunning forces who had opposed their takeover.

Thousands of Taliban fighters charged into eight districts of Panjshir province overnight, according to witnesses. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed that the province, which is north of the capital, was now held by their fighters.

“We tried our best to solve the problem through negotiations, and they rejected talks and then we had to send our forces to fight,” Mujahid told a news conference in Kabul.

The group posted footage online of their fighters raising their flag there on Monday.

Resistance fighters however said they were still present in “all strategic positions” and “continue to fight”.

Their leader has called for a “national uprising” against the Taliban.

In an audio recording posted on social media Ahmad Massoud, leader of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRF), blamed the international community for legitimising the Taliban and giving them military and political confidence.

“Wherever you are, inside or outside, I call on you to begin a national uprising for the dignity, freedom and prosperity of our country,” he said.

Amrullah Saleh is the son of the iconic anti-Taliban fighter Ahmad Shah Massoud. Experts had doubted that the holdout efforts could succeed long-term against the Taliban, whose rapid advance through Afghanistan met little resistance in the final days of America’s 20-year war in the country.

Foreign nations withdrew its last troops a week ago and ended a harrowing airlift to evacuate Western citizens and their Afghan allies that was marred by scenes of desperation and horrific violence.

During that evacuation, thousands of people descended on Kabul’s airport, hoping to flee the country because they feared what the Taliban’s rule might hold, given their history of repression, particularly of women. At one point, an Islamic State suicide bomber targeted the crowds, killing 169 Afghans and 13 American service members.

Many people are still hoping to leave the country, but with Kabul’s airport not yet running international flights.

The United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are traveling to the Persian Gulf and Europe this week to discuss Afghanistan.

President Joe Biden was asked Monday night as he returned to the White House whether he would recognize the Taliban government. “That’s a long way off. That’s a long way off,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Taliban say they are working to repair Kabul’s airport, where only domestic flights have resumed and just during the day for now.

Mujahid, the group’s spokesman, told reporters that American soldiers destroyed equipment before departing, including the critical radar system. The US has said troops destroyed military equipment but left equipment useful for running a civilian airport, like fire trucks.

Technical experts from Qatar and Turkey have begun repairs, though it’s not clear when the airport will be up and running.

The Taliban have pledged to allow anyone with the proper legal documents to leave the country.