This is How the Anti-Taliban Force in Panjshir Valley Plans to Fight the Insurgents

Amid reports of Panjshir – a stronghold of resistance against the Taliban – being a target of the insurgents who earlier took control of Afghanistan, Ali Maisam Nazary, the spokesperson of the National Resistance Front, has said the movement is prepared for a “long-term conflict”.

Former defence minister of Ashraf Ghani’s government, General Bismillah Mohammadi, on Sunday said in a tweet that Panjshir will not surrender and will continue to resist. Reports have also claimed anti-Taliban force gaining strength in Panjshir to have taken control over Pul-e-Hesar, Deh Salah, and Banu.

Now, Ahmad Massoud, the son of legendary Mujahideen commander Ahmad Shah Massoud who was assassinated by Al-Qaeda two days before the September 11, 2001 attacks, has assembled a fighting force of around 9,000 people in Panjshir.

The Resistance Movement’s Plans, Preparations: :

Prepared for Long-term Conflict, But Want Negotiation With Taliban: Former Afghan government forces forming a resistance movement in a fortified valley are preparing for “long-term conflict”, but are also seeking to negotiate with the Taliban, their spokesman told AFP in an interview.

Thousands Make Way to Panjshir, Recruits Prep-up: Since the Taliban took control of the country following a lightning charge into the capital Kabul, thousands of people have made their way to Panjshir to both join the fight and find a safe haven to continue their lives, Ali Maisam Nazary said. Pictures taken by AFP during training exercises show dozens of recruits performing fitness routines, and a handful of armoured humvees driving across the valley northeast of Kabul.

NRF’s Main Goal: Avoid Bloodshed, Press for New System of Govt: The National Resistance Front’s main goal is to avoid further bloodshed in Afghanistan and press for a new system of government. But Nazary said the group is also prepared for conflict, and if the Taliban do not negotiate they will face resistance across the country. “The conditions for a peace deal with the Taliban is decentralisation — a system that ensures social justice, equality, rights, and freedom for all,” Nazary told AFP, the NRF’s head of foreign relations, adding if the Taliban do not agree there will be “long-term conflict”.

Local Militias Make Links With NRF, Taliban Overstretched: Talks between local leaders from Afghanistan’s north and authorities in Pakistan were taking place until just days ago, Nazary added. While the Taliban control the vast majority of Afghanistan, Nazary optimistically highlighted reports that local militias in some districts have already begun resisting their hardline rule and have formed links with Massoud’s NRF. “Massoud did not give the order for these things to happen but they are all associated with us,” Nazary said. “The Taliban are overstretched. They cannot be everywhere at the same time. Their resources are limited. They do not have support amongst the majority.”

Massoud, Saleh’s Views Different: He said, however, that Masood had different views to Amrullah Saleh, latterly the country’s vice president who is also holed out in the valley and last week vowed to lead an uprising. “Mr Saleh is in Panjshir. He opted to stay in the country and not flee,” Nazary said, noting Saleh’s strong anti-Pakistan stance was at odds with Massoud who wanted good relations with Afghanistan’s Taliban-supporting neighbour. “Mr Saleh is anti-Taliban and anti-Pakistani. That does not mean he is a part of this movement. He is in Panjshir and he is respected.”

Aim to Defend Panjshir and its People: The aim right now is to defend Panjshir and its people, Nazary said. “If there is any aggression because our fight is only for defence; if anyone attacks us we will defend ourselves.”

Intellectuals, Women Activists, Politicians Also in Panjshir: Alongside Massoud’s fighting force, Panjshir now hosts more than 1,000 displaced people from across Afghanistan who have poured into the valley looking for sanctuary, Nazary said. “We are seeing Panjshir become a safe zone for all those groups who feel threatened in other provinces.” He added the province has seen an influx of intellectuals, women’s and human rights activists, and politicians “who feel threatened by the Taliban”.

Massoud Asks US for Weapons: Massoud appealed for weapons from the United States in an op-ed published in the Washington Post on Thursday. Nazary told AFP that they also require humanitarian assistance to feed and take care of the newly arrived. Massoud is determined to stand by the people of the valley and take up his father’s mantle, Nazary added, stressing Afghanistan needs a federated system of government to close its endless cycle of war.

‘A Beacon of Hope’: “War is just a byproduct of conflict in Afghanistan. What has caused the conflict is that Afghanistan is a country made up of ethnic minorities … (and) in a multi-ethnic country you cannot have one ethnic group dominate politics and others having a presence in the margins,” Nazary said, adding that Massoud’s resistance, and others across Afghanistan, are vital in making this change happen. “Panjshir has always been a beacon of hope.”

With inputs from AFP.

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