The Taliban militants have claimed victory in Afghanistan’s Panjshirprovince, with a spokesman saying the region had been “completely conquered” following two weeks of fierce fighting with a resistance group.
Panjshir was the last remaining hold-out among Afghanistan’s 34 provinces to resist the Taliban’s intrusion. If the claim is true, it would mean the Taliban now control all the provinces of Afghanistan.
However, the National Resistance Front in Afghanistan (NRF), an anti-Taliban group that has been battling the militants’
offensive in the Panjshir Valley, denied the claim, with spokesman Ali Nazary telling international media:
“The resistance is still all over the valley.”
Photos and videos shared widely on social media showed the white flag of the Taliban hoisted between buildings in what appeared to be the Panjshir governor’s office in the provincial capital of Bazarak.
“The last nest of the enemy, Panjshir province, was completely conquered … We assure the honourable people of Panjshir that they will not face any discriminatory treatment. They are all our brothers, and we will work for one country and one common goal. With the recent efforts and this victory, our country is completely out of the vortex of war,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed in a tweet. Although it did not deny the centre of Panjshir had fallen to the Talibans, the NRF said other areas in Panjshir remained under its control.
“Most of Bazarak district and all the side valleys are controlled by the NRF,” Nazary counter claimed. “Taliban’s claim of occupying Panjshir is false.
The NRF forces are present in all strategic positions across the valley to continue the fight. We assure the people of Afghanistan that the struggle against the Taliban and their partners will continue until justice and freedom prevails,” the NRF pointed out.
The claim comes after a weekend of intense fighting in the Panjshir Valley, with heavy casualties reported.
NRF leader Ahmad Massoud said in a Facebook post on Sunday he is in support of clerics in the capital Kabul who have called for an end to the fighting and was ready to talk once the Taliban withdrew troops from Panjshir and the neighbouring district of Andarab.
Earlier, Taliban spokesman Belal Kareemi told CNN the group’s militant fighters had taken all districts of Panjshir province except for the capital of Bazarak and Rokha districts, which remain under NRF control.
But resistance fighters appeared to rebut the Taliban’s claims. Panjshir is a strategic slice of mountainous terrain rich with precious mineral resources around 90 miles (144 kilometres) north of Kabul, and the only region among Afghanistan’s 34 provinces to remain out of the Taliban’s control. For two weeks the NRF, a multi-ethnic group that includes former Afghan security force members and reportedly numbers in the thousands, has continued the fight against the Taliban following the militants’ almost-complete takeover of Afghanistan.
NRF leader Massoud said the group agreed to certain measures “to facilitate the requirements of national peace and security in the country” and “hopes that the Taliban will respond to the request of the clerics and take practical steps.”
“The National Resistance Front is ready to immediately end the war in order to achieve lasting peace if the Taliban end their attacks and military operations in Panjshir and Andarab,” Massoud said.
“The National Resistance Front fully supports the call of the religious scholars to lift the penalties imposed on Panjshir and hopes that the Taliban group will take this Islamic and humanitarian demand seriously and implement it,” he added.
“The National Resistance Front proposes that the Taliban stop its military operations in Panjshir, Andarab, Parwan and Kapisa and withdraw its forces from Panjshir and Andarab. In return, the National Resistance Front will direct its forces to refrain from military action,” Massoud said. Parwan and Kapisa are neighbouring provinces to Panjshir. There’s been no official Taliban response to Massoud’s proposals.
After his comments, the NRF said its spokesmen Fahim Dashty and General Abdul Wudod Zara were killed. “Regretfully, the National Resistance of Afghanistan lost two companions in the holy war against oppression and aggression today,” the group tweeted. “May their memory be eternal!”