Dubai, United Arab Emirates: The Taliban said on Sunday that “hundreds” of its fighters were heading to the Panjshir Valley, one of the few parts of Afghanistan not yet controlled by the group.
Since the Taliban overran Afghanistan, flickers of resistance have begun to emerge with some ex-government troops gathering in the Panjshir, north of Kabul, long known as an anti-Taliban bastion.
“Hundreds of Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate are heading towards the state of Panjshir to control it after local state officials refused to hand it over peacefully,” the group wrote on its Arabic Twitter account.
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 according to a spokesman for anti-Taliban forces.
In Panjshir, 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 sought to assemble a force of around 9,000 people to counter the militants, the spokesman, Ali Maisam Nazary, told AFP.
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.
Nazary said the group wants to push for a new system of government but is prepared to fight if needed.
“Government forces came to Panjshir from several Afghan provinces,” Massoud told Saudi Arabia’s Al-Arabiya broadcaster Sunday.
“The Taliban will not last long if it continues on this path. We are ready to defend Afghanistan and we warn of bloodshed.”
‘Valley of five lions’ where even Taliban dreads
Despite the world was taken aback by the swift Taliban takeover of the entire Afghanistan, the ‘Valley of Lion’ or Panjshir Valley has remained aloof.
The Panjshir River flows through this valley, which is 150 kilometres north of Kabul. The Hindukush mountains are also close by.
The region is primarily inhabited by the Tajiks who are a Persian-speaking Iranian ethnic group.
The Tajiks make up Afghanistan’s second-largest ethnic group, accounting for 25-30% of the country’s population. People from the Hazara community, who are thought to be Genghis Khan’s descendants, also live here. There are also residents from the Nuristani and Pashai communities.
What is worth knowing, even when the entire Afghanistan dreaded the advancing Taliban aggression, Panjshir Valley remained unaffected. As per reports, nobody fled the region, now people panicked.
The significance of this location, as well as the interest around it, stems from the fact that it is one of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces that is not occupied by the Taliban and has never been under their control.
Even the all-powerful Soviet Union was unable to take this location through force. The Soviets attempted but failed to cross Panjshir Valley in the 1970s and 1980s, Indian media outlet DNA reported.
Panjshir has eluded all attempts to apprehend it. Even when the United States bombed Afghanistan, Panjshir remained unaffected.
A New York Times report quoted a local resident as saying, “We will not give up without a fight. We’re not going to kneel. Terrorists will never win over the people of Panjshir. Before that happens, we will welcome death.”
The valley, at the moment, is under the aegis of late Ahmad Shah Massoud’s son Ahmad Massoud who famously stayed at Kabul to be with the Afghan people when Ashraf Ghani fled the nation earlier this week.
The Panjshir Valley is the only site where a counter-terrorist movement can begin.