The Panjshir region poses a challenge to the Taliban

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The Taliban said on Monday it had taken control of all of Afghanistan, including the Panjshir Valley, the historic Tajik stronghold that neither the Soviets of the 1980s nor the Taliban of the 1990s were able to conquer. But resistance leader Ahmad Massoud – son of the legendary anti-Taliban commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, known as the “lion of Panjshir” – says his forces are still holding.

In Afghanistan, all eyes are on the mountainous Panjshir Valley in the northeast of the country, which the Taliban announced it had captured on Monday. “The Panjshir, the enemy’s last hiding place, is captured,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told a press conference.

Massoud, however, said his forces were still fighting: “We are in Panjshir and our Resistance will continue,” he wrote on Twitter.

Massoud National Resistance Front (NRF) spokesperson Fahim Fetrat told FRANCE 24 Observers that the Taliban had captured towns in the valley and the valley’s main thoroughfare, Saricha Road, but the NRF still resisted in the mountains and valleys of the predominantly Tajik region.

As a sign of his determination to lead the fight against the Taliban, Massoud called on the Afghans to lead a “national uprising” against the Taliban on Monday.

“The young Massoud – who can count on 9,000 to 10,000 combatants, boosted by auxiliaries – embodies the spirit of resistance against fanaticism and obscuration, and he has a marked ability to unite people”, declared Olivier Weber, author of Massoud, the rebel assassin (“Massoud, the murdered rebel”). The book is a study by the father of Massoud, who was the main commander of the armed opposition to the Taliban regime from 1996 to 2001 and who was assassinated in a suicide bombing two days before the terrorist attacks of September 11.

Hostile terrain

After the Taliban crossed the country in the first two weeks of August, many Afghans who were former soldiers or special forces joined thousands of local fighters in the Panjshir resistance and took away weapons and weapons. ammunition with them, according to Ferat.

The Panjshir Valley is difficult terrain for foreigners to capture due to its challenging topographic features – with narrow gorges between high, steeply sloping mountains, offering few entry points, the main one being the Saricha road.

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This fertile region, renowned for the quality of its local fruits, is considered a paradise by its inhabitants and a hell for those who have tried to conquer it. The Soviet Union failed to capture the Panjshir Valley during its occupation of Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989 in support of a puppet Communist regime. Neither can the Taliban.

Ahmad Shah Massoud was the military commander who successfully pushed back the USSR and the Taliban from Panjshir. His legend remains omnipresent in the region, which has sworn loyalty to his 32-year-old son, Ahmad Massoud, who returned to Afghanistan in 2016 after spending a year at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst, where he earned a first degree. cycle of war studies at King’s College. London and complete an MA in International Politics at City, University of London.

The NRF “completely surrounded”

Ahmad Massoud’s National Resistance Front prepared for the Taliban to come to power as the United States began to withdraw. “I am writing from the Panjshir Valley today, ready to follow in my father’s footsteps, with Mujahedin fighters who are ready to face the Taliban again,” he wrote in an opinion piece for the Washington Post on August 18. “We have ammunition and weapon stores that we have patiently picked up since my father’s time, because we knew that day would come.

But Massoud added that the NRF needed outside help to push back the Taliban, saying “its military forces and logistics would not be sufficient” if the Islamist group attacked Panjshir. “They will be quickly depleted unless our Western friends find a way to supply us without delay,” he continued.

Fetrat sounded a more optimistic note. “We are in a new phase of the war. We are now entering the guerrilla phase, ”he told FRANCE 24 Observers, highlighting the past successes of the Panjshir militia under Ahmad Shah Massoud. “The same thing happened during the Soviet occupation in the 1980s and the war against the Taliban in the 1990s: the enemy captured the cities but we resisted in the mountains.

“As far as the Taliban are concerned, Panjshir is like a blot on the map of Afghanistan, because it is the only area that is not totally under their control, and maybe not for a while,” Weber said.

“The balance of power is not good for the NRF, which is completely surrounded,” he concluded, “even if its resistance fighters have years of guerrilla experience in their favor.

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This article has been translated from the original into French.


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