Selasa, 07 September 2021

Afghanistan: Why Taliban capturing the Panjshir Valley is so significant | — Australia's leading news site -

For decades, the world’s top militaries have tried to take Afghanistan’s most solid stronghold – all failed. Until the Taliban tried this week.

For decades, some of the world’s top military forces have attempted to take hold of the Panjshir Valley, a rugged, mountainous, region that has long been a stronghold for Afghanistan resistance forces.

The Panjshir Valley, 70km north of Kabul, lies in the Hindu Kush Mountains and connects the Afghan capital to the north of the country, and up to Uzbekistan.

In 1979, an insurrection from famed mujahideen commander Ahmad Shah Massoud kicked off a guerrilla operation in the valley to attack the Soviet army, that was currently occupying Afghanistan.

After six years of brutal war to try and gain control of the valley, then-Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev said the nation would be withdrawing from Afghanistan completely.

Massoud, who was known as the Lion of Panjshir, succeeded again 10 years later when the Taliban fought to take control of the valley between 1996 and 2001.

He was assassinated two days before the September 11 attacks, on September 9, 2001.

Twenty years later, the valley was the last place denying Taliban rule, weeks after the militant group swept to power in Afghanistan.

Anti-Taliban forces trained for weeks in the valley, led by Massoud’s son Ahmad Massoud, and prepared for yet another war.

But in a final push this week, the Taliban claimed victory over the impenetrable fortress.

The Taliban on Monday said it had total control over Afghanistan, saying they had won the key battle for the Panjshir Valley, the last remaining holdout of resistance against their rule.

Following their lightning-fast victory in mid-August over the former Afghan government’s security forces and the withdrawal of US troops after 20 years of war, the Taliban turned to fighting the forces defending the mountainous Panjshir Valley.

As the Islamist hardliners claimed victory, their chief spokesman warned against any further attempts to rise up against their rule while urging former members of the security forces to join their regime’s ranks.

“With this victory, our country is completely taken out of the quagmire of war,” chief spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.

“Anyone who tries to start an insurgency will be hit hard. We will not allow another,” he later added at a press conference in Kabul.

The Taliban published a video of their flag being raised over the governor’s house in Panjshir – underscoring a historic win that has seen the anti-Taliban bastion defeated for the first time during 40 years of conflict.

Taliban fighters broke out into prayers as their banner fluttered from the flagpole.

In videos circulating on pro-Taliban social media, fighters passed underneath portraits venerating their old enemy, the late Panjshir resistance commander Ahmad Shah Massoud.

Soon after, in a photograph released by Taliban official Bilal Karimi, the same picture of Massoud was seen with his face ripped out.

Taliban gunmen then stand posing in front of the ragged portrait.

The National Resistance Front (NRF) in Panjshir – made up of anti-Taliban militia and former Afghan security forces – on Sunday acknowledged suffering major battlefield losses and called for a ceasefire.

The NRF said spokesman Fahim Dashty – a well-known Afghan journalist – and a top commander, General Abdul Wudod Zara, had been killed.

But on Monday, the group said in a tweet that its fighters were still present in “strategic positions” in the valley.

The NRF includes local fighters loyal to Ahmad Massoud as well as remnants of the Afghan military that retreated to the Panjshir Valley.

As Taliban fighters amassed in the valley, Massoud on Monday called on Afghans in and out of the country to “rise up in resistance”.

“For those who want to take up arms, we are with you,” he said.

“For those who will resort to protest, we will stand next to you.”

Under Massoud’s father, Ahmad Shah, the Panjshir fighters earned a legendary reputation for resistance, defending their mountain homes.

The 115km-long valley surrounded by jagged snow-capped peaks offers defenders a natural military advantage, allowing them to use the high positions to ambush attacking forces below.

But they faced internet shutdowns by the Taliban and supply roads were blocked.

Previously, Panjshir’s fighters melted away in the face of advancing forces, hiding in canyons off the main valley, then launching guerrilla raids.

But the Taliban has been emboldened by their sweeping victories across the rest of the country, where they seized an enormous arsenal of weapons and military kit that the now-departed US provided to the defeated Afghan army.

– with AFP

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2021-09-07 07:29:33Z

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