Taliban spokesperson claims ‘complete capture’ of Afghanistan’s Panjshir

Sept 6, 2021: The group’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said the Taliban had taken full control of Panjshir Province, the last area in Afghanistan held by resistance forces.

Senior Taliban officials have announced a general amnesty for all of Panjshir and said no one would be harmed if they surrendered.

 

Pictures on social media on Monday showed Taliban members standing in front of the gate of the Panjshir provincial governor’s compound.

Anti-Taliban forces in the National Resistance Front (NRF) Panjshir Valley vowed to continue fighting on Monday. The NRF said it was in “strategic positions” across the valley and would continue to fight the Taliban and their allies.

Earlier on Monday, the NRF acknowledged heavy casualties on the battlefield and called for a ceasefire, as US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken traveled to Qatar to deal with the chaos following the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The NRF suggested in a statement that “the Taliban should suspend its military operations in Panjshir and withdraw its forces.”

“In return, we will instruct our forces to refrain from military action,” the statement said, according to AFP.

The NRF includes local fighters loyal to Ahmed Masood, son of anti-Soviet and anti-Taliban commander Ahmad Shah Masood, as well as remnants of the Afghan army retreating to Panjshir Valley that is 125km north of Kabul.

Separately, the group said in a tweet on Sunday that spokesman Fahim Dashti, a prominent Afghan journalist and General Abdul Wadud Zara had been killed in fresh fighting.

The NRF has promised to fight the Taliban but has also said it is ready to negotiate with the group. But initial contact did not lead to any progress.

The Panjshir Valley is known for its resistance to Soviet forces in the 1980s and the Taliban in the late 1990s.

The Taliban have not finalized their new government since entering Kabul three weeks ago. Afghanistan’s new rulers have promised more “inclusion” than in their first term, which came after years of conflict, first the Soviet invasion in 1979 and then a bloody civil war. They have promised a government that represents Afghanistan’s complex ethnic make-up.

The Taliban’s education authority said in a lengthy document released Sunday that women would be allowed into the university as long as classes were segregated by gender or at least veiled.

As the Taliban grapples with the transition from an armed insurgency to a government, it faces a number of challenges, including humanitarian needs for which international aid is important.

Meanwhile, Martin Griffith, the UN’s humanitarian chief, has arrived in Kabul for several days of meetings with the Taliban leadership, who have promised help.

The Taliban spokesman tweeted that the group’s delegation assured the UN of cooperation.

The international community is negotiating diplomatic relations with the new Taliban government. Top US diplomat Blinken was a key Afghan player in Qatar on Monday, although he is not expected to meet with Doha-based Taliban representatives.

Qatar, which hosts a U.S. military base, has been a gateway for airlifting 55,000 people from Afghanistan by air, after US-led forces evacuated about half of the area after the Taliban took over on August 15.

Blinken will also talk to the Qatari leadership about efforts with Turkey to reopen Kabul airport, which is essential for humanitarian aid flights and the evacuation of the remaining Afghans.

On Wednesday, Blinken will leave for the US Air Base in Ramstein, Germany, the temporary home of thousands of Afghans, from where he will hold a 20-nation ministerial meeting with German Foreign Minister Heiko Moss on the crisis.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday called for talks with the Taliban.

“We just have to talk to the Taliban about how we can get rid of those who have worked for Germany and get them out of the country,” she told reporters.

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