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Senin, 06 September 2021

Inside the battle for Panjshir — the fierce fight for the last province to fall to the Taliban - ABC News

As the Taliban swept across Afghanistan last month, they stopped at the boundary of Panjshir — the home of the National Resistance Front and the only province that had not been under their control before.

But after a week of fighting, the Taliban are now claiming they have also captured Panjshir and their control over Afghanistan is complete. 

Panjshir Valley has a long and proud history of resistance, but yesterday the Taliban raised their flag over the Governor's office. 

The Taliban claimed they were in control of the entire province, while the National Resistance Front insisted the battle was not over and it was still in strategic positions outside the capital. 

Panjshir is a mountainous province north-east of Kabul. The steep valley is a natural fortress, but it is also a symbol. 

As the Taliban took the capital of Kabul, thousands of Afghan military fighters and local militia amassed in Panjshir Valley, knowing this would be the location of the final stand. 

After a failed attempt to negotiate a settlement, the two sides engaged in heavy fighting, both reporting to inflict heavy losses on the other. 

The resistance also lost a leader who helped guide it to victory last time around — who helped forge the legacy of Panjshir.

In an interview one day before communications to the valley were restricted by the Taliban, Fahmid Dashti told the ABC the resistance would endure, "not just for Panjshir, but for all Afghans". 

On Sunday night, Fahmid Dashti was killed.  

The battle for Panjshir

A landscape image that shows the high mountains and the green valley between them.
A general view of Panjshir valley as seen from Ahmad Shah Massoud's grave on the 10th anniversary of his assassination. (

AFP: Massoud Hossaini

)

The resistance movement and the Taliban had been in talks over the formation of a government, but they reached an impasse. 

"Unfortunately they did not uphold their commitments, the gentlemen's agreement that we reached with them a week ago, which was not attacking each other," head of foreign relations for the National Resistance Front, Ali Nazary, told the ABC.  

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The Taliban sent reinforcements to the several entry points to the valley and started to make incursions. While they were initially repelled, there was a heavy Taliban offensive on Sunday night.

Thousands of Taliban fighters overran eight districts of Panjshir overnight, according to local witnesses who hid their identity for security reasons. 

Location data shows the Taliban at the southern entrance to the valley and positioned at least 37 kilometres beyond its boundary in the capital of Barazak

An Italian aid agency said Taliban forces had reached the Panjshir village of Anabah, which is about 25 kilometres into the 115km long valley from the south. 

"Many people have fled from local villages in recent days," the agency said in a statement, adding it was continuing to provide medical services and treating a "small number of wounded".

The resistance movement tweeted: "Panjshir in under heavy attack tonight. The valley is under fire. They attacked from the ground and air. 

"As Taliban launch fierce attacks in Panjshir, Pakistan ISI chief is in Kabul. Also, the world is watching."   

Yesterday afternoon, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said the last "escapee enemy" had been captured.

He said there were no civilian casualties in the takeover of Panjshir and announced the electricity and internet connection would resume immediately. 

However, one Panjshir fighter told the ABC he was forced to return to Kabul to protect his family as the Taliban were targeting people in the city associated with the resistance movement. 

That fighter said: "Panjshir is not defeated. Thousands of resistance fighters are present in safe places in the mountains of Panjshir.

"Guerrilla warfare begins in Panjshir today and the Taliban will surely be driven out of Panjshir." 

Last last night, resistance leader Ahmad Massoud released a statement urging compatriots to remain strong. 

"Wherever you are, whether inside the country or outside, we appeal to you to rise up in resistance for the dignity, integrity and freedom of our country," he said.  

"For those who want to take up arms, we are with you. For those who will resort to protests, we will stand with you, will join you and declare our support with your struggle. 

"For saving our motherland, we are ready to remain with you until the last moment."

From inside the Panjshir Valley, a former Afghan commando reflected on the moment. 

"Panjshir is not just a governor's office, which can be captured," he said. 

"For me, fighting for homeland is most important. It's not right to talk about defeat. Do we fight for defeat, for victory, or for dying? 

"Freedom is much bigger than the pain we have in our heart now."

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During the battle, a local fighter said: "The entry of the Taliban into Panjshir means that all the resistance fighters will be killed. And this is not possible. And God willing, this will not happen.

The Panjshir legacy 

Ahmad Massoud speaks during an interview
Ahmad Massoud is the leader of Afghanistan's resistance movement. (

Reuters: Mohammad Ismail

)

Anti-Taliban leader Massoud is part of a proud resistance legacy in Panjshir. 

His father was Commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, the much-loved politician and military leader who defended Panjshir against the Soviet Union in the 1980s and the Taliban when they rose to power in 1996. 

Commander Massoud was killed two days before the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York City — exactly 20 years ago on Thursday.

Mr Dashti was an adviser to both the young Massoud and his father. 

"The commander was a unique person, but the young leader always says, 'I am not Ahmad Shah Massoud, I am Ahmad Massoud,' … and there are differences of course, but there are some things in common," he told the ABC before his death. 

Mr Dashti was there when the resistance held back the Taliban in the 1990s. 

"We had limited resources, we were surrounded by Taliban and we were facing a very hard and difficult situation," he said. 

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Mr Dashti was a well-known journalist who had a significant impact on the Afghan press. Most recently, he was the spokesperson for the National Resistance Front. 

Before he died, Mr Dashti had a message for the world. 

"We would like the international community to talk with Taliban and to convince them to continue the meaningful negotiation," he said. 

"Second, there is need for humanitarian support.

"And third, if the negotiation is not resulting in something better for Afghanistan, then we want the international community to pressurise Taliban by sanctions, by not recognising them." 

Two men wave an previous flag of Afghanistan, which represents the resistance movement.
The anti-Taliban fighters in Panjshir province say they are resisting for all of Afghanistan. (

AFP: Ahmad Sahel Arman

)

'Peace does not mean to surrender'

Mr Dashti told the ABC the movement had three goals. 

"First, peace and stability in Afghanistan. Second, to ensure the rights of Afghans — human rights and women's rights and other values. And third, the formation of an inclusive government, which will be representative of Afghans, which the Afghans can see as their own government," he said. 

Mr Nazary said negotiations broke down because the Taliban had a different definition of what an inclusive government would be. 

"For the Taliban, they believe they are going to be the dominant power, they are going to be the decision-makers, the policymakers, the head of state, the head of government, everything … however [they will give us] a few ministerial posts, ambassadorial posts so others could be tokens in their government and they believe that's inclusivity," he said. 

"For us, inclusivity means something else.

"We believe that power should be equally distributed." 

In an interview with Foreign Policy last week, Massoud said his ambition was to avoid war, but "peace does not mean to surrender". 

"My plan is to first pursue peace and to find a way to avoid war and conflict. Our struggle throughout the past 50 years has been for peace, and war has always been imposed upon us. However, peace does not mean to surrender and to allow injustice and inequality to continue in Afghanistan."

Mr Nazary said "for the Taliban peace, means stability", but something different for the resistance movement of Panjshir. 

"For us, stability is just one component of peace," he said. 

"Peace means justice, peace means citizens enjoying their rights and freedoms. Peace means something different to us.

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Taliban claims victory in last rebel holdout region

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2021-09-06 20:28:40Z
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