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Taliban close to crushing last bastion of resistance in Panjshir Valley

Militant group claims victory but local opposition forces have vowed to fight on

The Taliban has claimed it has “completely captured” the Panjshir Valley, home of the last pocket of resistance in Afghanistan.

“With this victory, our country is completely taken out of the quagmire of war,” Taliban chief spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement this morning.

Mujahid claimed the insurgents had seized a police headquarters and captured large numbers of prisoners, vehicles and weapons. However, noted The Telegraph, anti-Taliban forces in the region disputed the Taliban’s claims.

In a Twitter post, the resistance fighters said that the “Taliban’s claim of occupying Panjshir is false” and that their fighters “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 & their partners will continue until justice & freedom prevails,” they added.

The Taliban’s announcement came after The Times reported that the “fighters of the NRF [National Resistance Front of Afghanistan], the only remaining armed opposition to the Taliban domination of Afghanistan, appeared to be teetering on the edge of defeat”.

Thousands of Taliban fighters entered Panjshir from four directions after they had overrun mountain outposts defended by the NRF. Clashes between the two groups have been brutal, with NRF spokesperson Fahim Dashti and General Abdul Wudod Zara, a prominent military commander, reportedly killed in the latest round of fighting.

Last night, the NRF appeared to be calling for peace talks, releasing a statement that said: “The National Resistance Front is ready to stop the war immediately in order to achieve stable peace, if the Taliban group ends its military attacks and movements… and hopes that it will end the war with scholars and reformers in a large gathering all inclusively. Keep the conversations going.”  

The Taliban’s response was uncompromising. “Our message to the Panjshir resistance leaders is ‘surrender’,” said Maulawi Mohammed Faruq, one of the group’s commanders. “We don’t want to kill you… but surrender you must. Our victory is inevitable.”

Writing in The Times, war correspondent Anthony Loyd described the scene as Taliban fighters led away a Panjshiri prisoner. 

“He shot a fearful look over the shoulders of his Taliban captors,” said Loyd, noting that the prisoner’s hands were secured with US handcuffs. “I caught his eye just long enough to notice he had the startled fear and surprise of a man on the edge of drowning.”

Panjshir was the birthplace of Ahmad Shah Massoud, the guerrilla leader who defied Soviet offensives in the valley during Moscow’s decade-long occupation of Afghanistan. His 32-year-old Sandhurst-trained son, Ahmad Massoud, is now head of the NRF.

Although the Taliban has promised a more “inclusive” government that represents Afghanistan’s complex ethnic make-up, “few in Panjshir… seem to trust the group’s promises”, said the Daily Mail.

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