Fighting rages in Afghanistan’s Panjshir amid Taliban plans for government The Taliban is still battling to extinguish the last flame of resistance in the Panjshir Valley, as rumours spread the valley had fallen but no official claim has been made by the group.
Taliban forces have endured “heavy” assaults as fighting continues in Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley, say Afghan resistance movements and anti-Taliban uprising forces in the region.
The Taliban are still battling to extinguish the last flame of resistance in the Panjshir Valley, which held out for a decade against the Soviet Union’s occupation and also the Taliban’s first rule from 1996-2001.
Late on Friday, celebratory gunfire rang out across Kabul as rumours spread the valley had fallen, but the Taliban made no official claim and a resident told AFP by phone the reports were false.
Former Vice President Amrullah Saleh, one of the leaders of the opposition forces told Tolo News television station that reports he had fled the country were lies.
“We have been under invasion of The Taliban, their Al Qaeda allies, terrorist groups from the region and beyond — as usual backed by the Pakistanis” said Saleh in a video uploaded by BBC anchor Yalda Hakim on Twitter.
“We have held the ground, we have resisted. The resistance is not going to surrender. It’s not going to bow to terrorism and it’s going to continue,” he added.
Dispute over whether Taliban has taken Panjshir
Three Taliban sources said Taliban forces had taken full control of Afghanistan including the Panjshir valley where opposition forces had been holding out.
“By the grace of Allah Almighty, we are in control of entire Afghanistan. The troublemakers have been defeated and Panjshir is now under our command,” said one Taliban commander.
It was not immediately possible to confirm the reports.
Pro-Taliban Twitter accounts aired video clips purporting to show the group’s forces had captured tanks and other heavy military equipment inside the valley.
Taliban and resistance tweets suggested the key district of Paryan had been taken and lost again, but that could also not be independently verified.
On Friday, Ali Maisam Nazary, a spokesman for the Panjshir resistance who is understood to be outside the valley but in close contact with key leader Ahmad Massoud, said there had been more attacks by Taliban forces overnight.
“There is heavy fighting,” Nazary said. “He (Massoud) is busy defending the valley.”
But there were signs of normality in Kabul on Friday, where a near-full house turned out to watch Afghanistan’s top cricketers play in a trial match, with Taliban and Afghan flags waving side by side in what witnesses described as a show of national unity.
The Taliban faces the enormous challenge of shifting gears from armed group to governing power, days after the United States fully withdrew its troops and ended two decades of war.
While the West has adopted a wait-and-see approach to the group, there were some signs of engagement with the new leaders gathering pace.
China confirmed a tweet from a Taliban spokesman hours earlier, indicating that Beijing will keep its embassy in Kabul open.
“We hope the Taliban will establish an open and inclusive political structure, pursue moderate and stable domestic and foreign policy and make a clean break with all terrorist groups,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said.
The United Nations said it had restarted humanitarian flights to parts of the country, linking the Pakistani capital Islamabad with Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan and Kandahar in the south.
The country’s flag carrier Ariana Afghan Airlines resumed domestic flights on Friday, while the United Arab Emirates sent a plane carrying “urgent medical and food aid.”
Western Union and Moneygram, meanwhile, said they were restarting money transfers, which many Afghans rely on from relatives abroad to survive, and Qatar said it was working to reopen the airport in Kabul – a lifeline for aid.
Fears of humanitarian disaster
Even before the Taliban’s lightning offensive, Afghanistan was heavily aid-dependent – with 40 percent of the country’s GDP drawn from foreign funding.
The UN has warned 18 million people are facing a humanitarian disaster, and another 18 million could quickly join them.
Qatar said it hopes to see the establishment of humanitarian aid corridors at Afghan airports within 48 hours, Doha’s envoy to Afghanistan told Al Jazeera on Friday.
The new rulers have pledged to be more accommodating than during their first stint in power, which also came after years of conflict – first the Soviet invasion of 1979, and then a bloody civil war.
That regime was notorious for its brutal interpretation of Islamic law, and its treatment of women, who were forced inside, deprived of access to school and work, and denied freedom of movement.
This time round, the Taliban have made repeated declarations that they will not carry out revenge attacks on opponents, women will have access to education and some employment.
They have promised a more “inclusive” government that represents Afghanistan’s complex ethnic makeup.