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This article is more than 3 month old.

Can new Northern Alliance take on Taliban? All you need to know about main players and plans

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A group of anti-Taliban leaders under Afghanistan’s Vice President Amrullah Saleh, and young Ahmad Massoud, son of late legend Ahmad Shah Massoud, are drawing up resistance plans in the remote Panjshir valley. They may also be open to peace talks.

Can new Northern Alliance take on Taliban? All you need to know about main players and plans
A new resistance movement -- under the leadership of Afghanistan’s Vice President Amrullah Saleh, and Ahmad Massoud, son of late military leader Ahmad Shah Massoud -- is brewing in Panjshir valley against the Taliban regime.
Several anti-Taliban leaders and fighters have gathered in the Panjshir valley, north-east of Kabul, and the movement is open to negotiating a peace deal with the Taliban, which has not attacked the valley till date, according to reports in The Week. 
It is unclear what their plans are if the peace talks fail, but the resistance has vowed to fight the Taliban if an armed conflict arises in the future.
Panjshir, which translates to Five Lions from Persia, has never been conquered by foreigners or the Taliban. The picturesque valley is one of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, with Bazarak as its provincial capital.
The valley of Panjshir can be accessed through a single road. It does not border any country. While no country has committed to arming or supporting the movement yet, the strength of the resistance against the Taliban remains to be seen.
Northern Alliance 1996
The Northern Alliance was primarily a resistance movement against the Taliban-led government in 1996, which was actively supported by many governments.
India, Iran, and Russia supported the Northern Alliance in 1996 by providing training, arms and equipment to the fighters on ground in Afghanistan.
It was the veteran Tajik military commander, the late Ahmad Shah Massoud, who led the charge for the formation of the alliance in 1996 and successfully maintained the stronghold of Panjshir against Taliban incursion.
Massoud was widely known as the ‘Lion of Panjshir’ for fighting both the Soviets and the Taliban, and his son is now at the forefront of the resistance in the aftermath of the US troop withdrawal.
Ahmad Massoud, son of ‘Lion of Panjshir’
Thirty two-year-old Massoud leads a civilian militia of trained fighters, called the Second Resistance, who have vowed to protect Panjshir valley against the Taliban.
Several thousand men have also been deployed in neighbouring provinces to support the government forces against the Taliban.
Panjshir valley
Echoing the events of 1996 after the Taliban-led government came to power, the remaining anti-Taliban resistance fighters and followers of the two leaders, Amrullah Saleh and Ahmad Massoud are now confined to the Panjshir Valley.
Its location in the foothills of the Hindu Kush, combined with the brutal ruggedness of the terrain, is favourable to the resistance movement.
Northern Alliance 2.0?
It is difficult to predict if the new alliance would be able to take on the Taliban regime. So it is wait and watch for now.
Apart from India, there were two other countries who had engaged with the Northern Alliance in 1996 -- Iran and Russia. Currently, the two have readjusted their approach towards the Taliban.
  • Iran, has steadily cultivated a diplomatic relationship with the Taliban by arming them against the US presence in Afghanistan. Tehran has also worked to establish primary diplomatic relationship in anticipation of a Taliban-led government.
  • It is harder for the three countries that helped arm and train the Northern Alliance in 1996 to find common ground now. Geopolitical issues have shifted diplomatic standings and Iran’s close association with China, which is India’s strategic adversary, only complicates matters for a strong Northern Alliance 2.0.
  • The resistance is not as powerful as it was in 1996, and many former Northern Alliance members are struggling to unite against the Taliban. Many former warlords who fought in the alliance have either been captured or driven away from the country.
  • For now, India and Iran have both made it clear that they are willing to cooperate on this issue without revealing much.
    But former ambassador Bharath Raj Muthu Kumar said in an interview to The Hindu, “Taking note of Masood’s exchange, my thinking is that we must not commit that gross error of placing Indian boots on Afghan soil. What will Indian troops do? What could we achieve and who will we fight and defend? The leaders of the present government and the Taliban are only two major facets of Afghan politics -- they have to resolve their differences for that elusive peace and stability.”
    Currently, India along with other countries are waiting to see how events unfold before committing to arming the resistance movement against the Taliban government.
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