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The young leader of the resistance in the Panjshir has called for a national uprising against the Taliban as the Islamist group claimed to have broken the last stand of the opposition and gained control of the whole of Afghanistan.
Ahmad Massoud’s cry for revolt came less than 24 hours after he had announced that the National Resistance Front would take part in the ceasefire urged by religious leaders. But the Talibs are scenting victory and feel there is no need to talk, saying that the opposition had given “negative answers” at earlier negotiations.
The resistance continues to dispute the claims of victory by the Talibs, insisting that they are continuing to fight from “strategic positions” and have captured or killed hundreds of Islamist fighters.
But with photos on social media of Talibs at the gate of the Panjshir provincial governor’s compound, and raising its banner in the centre of the capital, the Islamist’s chief spokesman announced the “end of the war” in Afghanistan.
“With this victory, our country is completely taken out of the quagmire of war. The last remaining nest of the escaped enemy was cleared this morning and last night, Emirate forces [Taliban] have an active presence there now”, said Zabihullah Mujahid at a press conference.
Massoud, the 32-year-old son of the renowned mujaheddin leaders Ahmad Shah Massoud, has sent messages stressing that he remained in the Panjshir. The whereabouts of his fellow leader, Amrullah Saleh is unclear amid reports that he may have gone to Tajikistan. An implacable adversary of the Islamists and their Pakistani sponsors, he was not expected to survive long in Talib captivity.
While asking for a revolt against Taliban rule Ahmad Massoud said members of his family have been killed in the fighting. The resistance has reportedly lost a number of senior figures including General Abdul Wudod Zara, a nephew of Ahmad Shah Massoud and commanders Gul Haidar Khan and Munib Amiri.
Fahim Dashti, a journalist and the spokesperson of the resistance was also killed, in a drone attack which the opposition alleged was carried out by the Pakistani military.
Dashti, a former chairman of the Federation of Afghan Journalists (FAJ), was the nephew of Abdullah Abdullah, a former senior member of the Afghan government who is conducting negotiations with the Taliban. He was seriously injured in an al-Qaeda suicide bombing in which Ahmad Shah Massoud was murdered in the run-up to the 9/11 attacks on the US.
The Taliban are also reported to have lost some prominent figures including Maulvi Fassihuddin, the chief of its opposition in northeast Afghanistan who had played a key role in the Islamist offensive in the region.
Questions are being asked, however, about the costs incurred by the opposition in senior and experienced figures, as well as fighters, in deciding to continue the conflict in an area which had been a bastion in the past, but was now surrounded by enemy occupied territory.
Members of the resistance said they hoped that their refusal to give up would help galvanise a actions against the Talibs in other parts of the country. They also hoped to get foreign support. Ahmad Massoud, who had been to King’s College, London and Sandhurst had written a piece in The Washington Post requesting help and other senior members have been lobbying politicians abroad.
The opposition had repeatedly wanted to stress that they were not only fighting the Taliban but foreign jihadists, Isis and al-Qaeda on behalf of the international community.
There is bitterness at the way Afghanistan had been abandoned.
“The betrayal of Afghanistan by the west is colossal.... The scenes at Kabul airport in recent days represented the humiliation of humanity, an embarrassment for any nation that has been involved in Afghanistan since the Taliban were routed by the US-led Coalition Force in the aftermath of the 9/11 atrocity”, Saleh had charged. “This is not only shameful for President Biden, it is shameful for the whole of Western civilisation.”
There has been limited international reaction to what has happened at Panjshir.
Iran has “ strongly condemned” the Talib offensive saying it was “ truly worrying” and “the siege of Panjshir is by no means acceptable in terms of international law and humanitarian law”. But there has been no move to offer concrete help.
There has been persistent opposition to Taliban rule – from women. A protest march was held at the northern city of Mazae-e-Sharif on Monday, following ones in Kabul and Herat. The Taliban, who had promised equal rights for women under the tenets of Islam, have broken up each one with varying degrees of violence.
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