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Taliban say last pocket of resistance in Afghanistan's Panjshir Valley 'completely captured'

The Panjshir Valley lies in the Hindu Kush mountains, approximately 90 miles north of Kabul.

Published: 06th September 2021 10:25 AM  |   Last Updated: 06th September 2021 01:25 PM   |  A+A-

Afghan resistance movement and anti-Taliban uprising forces personnel patrol in armoured humvees at an outpost in Kotal-e Anjuman of Paryan district in Panjshir province

Afghan resistance movement and anti-Taliban uprising forces personnel patrol in armoured humvees at an outpost in Kotal-e Anjuman of Paryan district in Panjshir province (Photo | AFP)

By Associated Press

KABUL: The Taliban said Monday the last pocket of resistance in Afghanistan, the Panjshir Valley, had been "completely captured".

"With this victory, our country is completely taken out of the quagmire of war," Taliban chief spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement.

In his statement, Mujahid sought to assure residents of Panjshir that they would be safe, even as scores of families reportedly fled into the mountains ahead of the Taliban's arrival.

"We give full confidence to the honorable people of Panjshir that they will not be subjected to any discrimination, that all are our brothers, and that we will serve a country and a common goal," Mujahid said in his statement.

A senior member of the Afghan national resistance front, General Abdul Wudod Zara had also been killed during the standoff between rebel forces and the Taliban.

General Wudod was the nephew of Panjshir resistance leader Ahmad Massoud. Some reports also claim that Amrullah Saleh has moved to a safe place after a helicopter attacked his house, Samaa News reported.

The developments came soon after Afghan resistance force spokesperson Fahim Dashti was reported dead by various Afghanistan media.

Thousands of Taliban fighters overrun eight districts of Panjshir overnight, according to witnesses from the area.

They spoke on condition of anonymity fearing for their safety.

A day earlier, Ahmad Massoud, the leader of the resistance forces in Afghanistan's northeastern province of Panjshir said resistance forces are ready to cease fighting and start negotiations if the Taliban leave the province, Sputnik reported on Sunday.

Massoud is the son of the iconic anti-Taliban fighter Ahmad Shah Massoud who was killed just days before the 9/11 attacks in the United States.

Ahmad had issued a statement Sunday, calling for an end to the fighting that had been blistering in recent days.

The young British-schooled Massoud said his forces were ready to lay down their weapons but only if the Taliban agreed to end their assault.

Late on Sunday dozens of vehicles loaded with Taliban were seen swarming into Panjshir Valley.

There has been no statement from Saleh, Afghanistan's former vice president who had declared himself the acting president after Ashraf Ghani fled the country on Aug.15 as the Taliban reached the gates of the capital.

The Taliban subsequently entered the presidency building that day.

The Panjshir Valley lies in the Hindu Kush mountains, approximately 90 miles north of Kabul.

The Taliban have been unable to take this major holdout of resistance after steamrolling across pro-government troops in a matter of months.

The war over Panjshir province escalated from Friday night.

The Taliban stepped up assault on Panjshir on Sunday, tweeting that their forces had overrun Rokha district, one of largest of eight districts in the province.

Several Taliban delegations have attempted negotiations with the holdouts there, but talks has failed to gain traction.

Fahim Dashti, the spokesman for the anti-Taliban group, was killed in a battle on Sunday, according to the group's Twitter account.

Dashti was the voice of the group and a prominent media personality during previous governments.

He was also the nephew of Abdullah Abdullah, a senior official of the former government who is involved in negotiations with the Taliban on the future of Afghanistan.

Experts had doubted that resistance to the Taliban in Panjshir, the last holdout province, could succeed long-term despite the area's geographical advantage.

Nestled in the towering Hindu Kush mountains, the Panjshir Valley has a single narrow entrance.

Local fighters held off the Soviets there in the 1980s and also the Taliban a decade later under the leadership of Massoud.

Meanwhile, at least four planes chartered to evacuate several hundred people seeking to escape the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan have been unable to leave the country for days, officials said Sunday, with conflicting accounts emerging about why the flights weren't able to take off as pressure ramps up on the U.S. to help those left behind to flee.

An Afghan official at the airport in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif said that the would-be passengers were Afghans, many of whom did not have passports or visas, and thus were unable to leave the country.

He said they had left the airport while the situation was sorted out.

The top Republican on the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, however, said that the group included Americans and they were sitting on the planes, but the Taliban were not letting them take off, effectively "holding them hostage."

He did not say where that information came from.

It was not immediately possible to reconcile the accounts.

The final days of America's 20-year war in Afghanistan were marked by a harrowing airlift at Kabul's airport to evacuate tens of thousands of people — Americans and their allies — who feared what the future would hold, given the Taliban's history of repression, particularly of women.

When the last troops pulled out on Aug.30, though, many were left behind.

The U.S. promised to continue working with the new Taliban rulers to get those who want to leave out, and the militants pledged to allow anyone with the proper legal documents to leave.

But Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas told "Fox News Sunday" that American citizens and Afghan interpreters were being kept on six planes.

(With Inputs From AP and Agencies)



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