Last Bastion of Afghan Independence to be Surrendered?
By: Aashruti Vohra
Ahmed Masood, one of the leaders of Afghanistan’s last major anti-Taliban resistance outpost Panjshir, said on Sunday that he hopes to negotiate peace with the heads of the totalitarian Islamic movement that took power in Kabul a week ago, but his troops are ready to fight, Reuters reported.
“We want the Taliban to realize that the only way out is through negotiation,” he told the international news agency by phone from his stronghold in the Panjshir Valley, northwest of Kabul, where he assembled a unit made up of remnants of forces regular and special and local militiamen.
A statement on the Taliban’s Twitter account stated that hundreds of fighters were heading to Panjshir after local government officials refused to surrender him peacefully. A short video shows a row of captured trucks driving along the highway with white Taliban flags hung on them, but they still bear government marks.
This Ahmed Masood, who is the son of Ahmed Shah Masood, one of the top leaders of the anti-Soviet resistance movement in Afghanistan in the 1980s, however, added that if the Taliban army tried to invade the valley, his supporters were willing to fight.
There is some uncertainty among various media outlets as to whether the actions of the Taliban have already begun. A Taliban official said that an offensive has been launched against Panjshir. But an aide of Masood said that there was no indication that the column did indeed enter the narrow passage into the valley, and there were no reports of conflicts.
In the only confirmed battle since the fall of Kabul on Sunday, anti-Taliban forces occupied three areas bordering Panjshir in the northern province of Baghlan. It is now confirmed that Masood did not organise that operation. He claimed that it was a response to the Taliban’s “barbaric behaviour” in the area by the local militia.
Masood called for the establishment of an inclusive and broad-based government in Kabul, representing all the different ethnic groups in Afghanistan, and stated that the international community should not recognize a "totalitarian regime."
He said that his troops, according to an aide, were more than 6,000 and that if they were to fight, they would need international support. But he said that they are not only from Panjshir, which is a Persian-speaking Tajik region, which has long disagreed with the Pashtuns who form the core of the Taliban movement.
“There are many other people from many other provinces who are seeking asylum in the Panjshir Valley. They are with us and do not want to accept another identity in Afghanistan,” he said.
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