Negotiations between Afghanistan’s new rulers and the National Resistance Front, heir to the Northern Alliance, have failed. The resistance is led by former Vice President Saleh and the son of the late Ahmad Shah Massoud, the Lion of Panjshir. Claims that the resistance’s stronghold has fallen have been denied, but both sides have suffered heavy losses in the fighting.
Moscow (AsiaNews) – Following the failure of talks in Kandahar between the Taliban and pro-government forces loyal to Afghanistan’s former regime, the radical Islamists now in power in Kabul launched an attack last Tuesday against the Panjshir Valley.
Since then, fighting has been intense. The same is true about the propaganda war in a country where information is increasingly controlled.
Reports last night about the fall of the last region held by anti-Taliban forces saw Taliban celebrate in Kabul by firing in the air. Quickly the National Resistance Front (NRF) issued a statement denying the claim.
The leader of the anti-Taliban opposition, former Vice President Amrullah Saleh, sent a video message to the BBC claiming that the province is still in the resistance’s hands.
“There is no doubt we are in a difficult situation,” but “we will not surrender,” he said, adding that both sides were suffering heavy losses.
A few days ago, Saleh wrote a letter to German weekly Der Spiegel, explaining to the world the decision not to agree with the Taliban and to continue fighting in Panjshir province under the banner of the National Resistance Front.
“Geographically we are isolated, but politically and morally Afghanistan is with us and won't ever become Talibanistan,” Saleh wrote in a handwritten letter sent via WhatsApp.
In it he accuses the United States of “naïveté, fatigue and short-sightedness” to the point that now their global reputation, authority and political status have suffered.
Saleh blames ousted President Ashraf Ghani for running away from Kabul when the Taliban took the city, and asks the international community to force the extremist group to seek a fair political solution to the conflict, taking into account NRF’s demands.
Panjshir is the only province still not under Taliban control. Citing the Constitution of Afghanistan, Saleh declared himself the legal President of Afghanistan after Ghani’s flight.
NRF forces are led by Ahmad Massoud, son of the late leader Ahmad Shah Massoud, an ethnic Tajik.
According to Saleh, the NRF is prepared to enter into serious negotiations with the Taliban, but it is unwilling to recognise the Islamic Emirate or surrender to the Taliban.
At present, the Taliban have attacked the valley from four northeastern provinces: Badakhshan, Takhar, Kunduz and Baghlan. The two main lines of operation run from the Andarab Plain in Baghlan province to the city of Jabal Saraj. So far, NRF forces appear to have repelled the attack.
Citing a local source, Russia’s Interfax reported that 85 Taliban soldiers were killed and 108 wounded in Andarab, while on the other frontline 12 Taliban fell with 26 wounded.
The Taliban have also reportedly suffered heavy losses on the Khavak Pass, where commander Munib Amiri is leading the resistance. The latter twitted that more than 350 Taliban fighters were killed, with almost 300 wounded and 35 taken prisoners.
Taliban official Amir Khan Muttaki appealed on radio to NRF forces in Panjshir. “Enough with the war!” he said. “You have not resisted with the help of NATO neither in Kabul nor in the rest of the country. How do you plan to do it in a small territory?”
Muttaki announced that the Taliban had already appointed Panjshir’s new governor as well as various local officials. In his message, he added: “What's wrong with having an alim (Islamic legal scholar) as your governor appointed by us? Think carefully about this and join the Islamic Emirate.”