Panjshir valley of northern Afghanistan, the last province to resist the Taliban’s complete control of Afghanistan, has fallen as per the claims made by the Islamist force. But if we see the genesis of the Taliban’s emergence this time, we find that the Panjshir valley resistance is already a lost battle with no international support coming to the rescue and sustain it against the combined strength of the fundamentalist outfit and Pakistan.
Ahmad Massoud, the Panjshir leader and head of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRFA), and Amrullah Saleh, the caretaker President of the previous Afghan government, are both appealing to get some international support for the challengers. But with major powers like the US, Russia, China, Germany and Britain and the United Nations willing to give the Taliban a chance if they mend their ways, the NRFA, it seems, is going to be just a minor resistance group localised to a limited area if it continues with its efforts.
The United Nations Security Council recently adopted a resolution on Afghanistan. While Russia and China abstained in the vote on the resolution sponsored by the US, UK and France, the message was very clear that the international community had no problem with a Taliban-led government if the Islamist outfit ensured that Afghanistan would not become a terror hub again, like it was under the 1990s Taliban government regime: naturally with additional norms like upholding human rights concerns of women, children and minorities.
Clearly, the international community is looking towards a peaceful political settlement this time in the country that has seen civil wars for over 40 years and is willing to give the Taliban a chance with their rapid takeover after the withdrawal of the US and other international troops that showed the powerlessness of the previous Afghan government and inoperability of the security mechanism developed by America across the country since 2001.
Afghanistan has been a graveyard for many countries. The USSR invaded it in December 1979 but faced a humiliating loss after a decade of war much in the same way as the US and other international forces have seen in the last 20 years. While the Soviet Union’s withdrawal led to a bitter tribal war between different Mujahideen commanders with no alternative arrangement set in place and saw the emergence of the Taliban, this time the international community is much more concerned with terror becoming the biggest global threat and its deep correlation with Afghanistan in the past.
To sum it up, the international community is not going to encourage another movement in Afghanistan this time like it did for the anti-Taliban resistance Northern Alliance in the 1990s – until the Taliban fail and go back to the ways of the 1990s to become a radical, fundamentalist insurgent group again that harbours terrorists and threatens global security.
Though the Taliban have denied this, emboldened by Pakistan’s direct support, they now claim to have completely captured the landlocked valley. As confirmed by Ahmad Massoud, Pakistan bombed the valley to give the Taliban an upper hand over the NRFA fighters who were bravely taking on the Taliban forces for the last three weeks.
With direct air support through drone bombing, Pakistan also air-dropped its special forces to fight alongside the Taliban. And though the Taliban have assured the international community that they will not allow Afghanistan to become a terror hub again and will not allow terrorists to use the nation’s soil to plan and perpetrate terror attacks in other countries, the Taliban force at Panjshir valley also includes al-Qaeda fighters.
The correlation between ISI chief Hamid Faiz’s landing in Kabul on September 4 and the Taliban’s claim of complete capture of Panjshir province on September 6 can’t be ignored.
Though the NRFA says the Taliban claim is false, releasing a tweet this morning that says the “Taliban’s claim of occupying Panjshir is false and NRFA forces are present in all strategic positions across the valley to continue the fight, assuring the people of Afghanistan that the struggle against the Taliban and their partners will continue until justice and freedom prevails”, the fact is the NRFA lost its main voice and spokesperson Fahim Dashti in the battle on Sunday while Amrullah Saleh is missing and is reportedly in Tajikistan and Ahmad Massoud has fled.
Panjshir valley resisted the Soviet invasion in the 1980s and the Taliban takeover between 1996 and 2001. But the difference between then and now is the sweeping capture of Afghanistan by the Taliban all across the country, in 33 of the 34 provinces. Just Panjshir was left, but with claims made by the Taliban releasing video clips showing their fighters raising the Taliban flag on Bazarak, Panjshir’s capital city, and capturing Ahmad Massoud’s house and patrolling the valley’s streets, this province too has largely fallen.
The Taliban were not able to capture the northern areas of the country so effectively the last time, in the 1990s, as the Northern Alliance and many ethnic minorities inhabiting these areas fought well with international support. But by co-opting ethnic minorities like the Uzbeks, Tajiks, Turkmens and even Hazaras of this area this time by including commanders of these tribes, the Taliban have swept the entire northern Afghanistan area, including the border posts.
The local leadership of Panjshir previously had access to the supply routes to get essential items and arms and ammunition even during the war phase. But this time, these supply routes are under Taliban control, and while controlling the narrow entrance to the valley, they have blocked the roads and have ensured that food, medical and other emergency services supplied to the valley are entirely cut off.