The Afghan resistance today claimed it had not been defeated despite the Taliban celebrating victory in the Panjshir Valley, the last bastion of freedom against Islamist rule.
Ahmad Massoud, the son of the legendary freedom fighter Ahmad Shah ‘the Lion of Panjshir,’ tweeted: ‘We are in Panjshir and our Resistance will continue.’
The Sandhurst and King’s College London graduate said he was safe but did not give any details of his whereabouts.
The Taliban claims he has fled to Turkey and allege that his ally the former vice president Amrullah Saleh has sought refuge in Tajikistan.
Neither claim can be verified nor can the Taliban’s assertion that it has wrestled absolute control of the Panjshir.
The jihadists still haven’t formed a government, three weeks after they seized Kabul, and in the capital scores of people have been taking to streets as basic services collapse and the UN warns of food shortages.
Taliban fighters in Kabul on Tuesday fired into the air to disperse the crowds who were heard chanting the name of Ahmad Massoud and for the liberation of the Panjshir.
Taliban fighters celebrate victory in the Panjshir Valley on Monday. The jihadists claim to have wrestled control of the province and completed a total victory over Afghanistan
Although it is possible that the Taliban has seized control of the major arteries and villages of the Panjshir, it is equally possible that the resistance has retreated only as far as the steep sides of the mountains from which it will wage a guerilla war
Two young boys run away from the shooting Taliban militants as hundreds protested in Kabul on Tuesday
Women protesting in the centre of Kabul as Taliban militants stand guard with assault rifles
Massoud, 32, released an audio message to the media on Monday vowing that his militia would fight on and called on all Afghans for ‘a national uprising for the dignity, freedom and prosperity of our country.’
Although the Taliban unfurled their white flag over the Panjshiri capital, Bazarak, the resistance still believes it can wage a guerilla offensive.
The valley has repelled invaders time and again, defended by Massoud’s father from the Soviets in the 1980s and then again from the Taliban in the 1990s.
Pro-resistance social media accounts are fighting an information battle against Taliban propagandists and claim that they will never surrender, that time is on their side and the jihadists will eventually be vanquished once more.
A Twitter account called Resistance 2.0 wrote on Monday: ‘Last night we had to make a hard decision in the face of furious enemy attacks and depleted munitions: make a last stand in Bazarak [the provincial capital] and risk the total elimination of our leadership or retreat to higher ground in order to continue the resistance.
‘We chose the latter.
‘Panjshir is like a maze with dozens of valleys within the Panjshir. We have retreated with our honour intact having inflicted the most casualties on the Taliban than all the other provinces combined during the war. Taliban can claim victory for capturing Bazarak.
‘We don’t fight for governor’s compound or Panjshir. We fight for freedom and the freedom of all Afghanistan.
‘Everyone is safe and in good spirits. We are on a terrain that we know and best suits the next chapter of our resistance. We know what we are doing! This was expected!’
Today scores of protesters in Kabul chanted the name of Ahmad Massoud as they called for rights for women, work and freedom of movement.
Taliban fighters fired into the air to disperse the crowds, some of whom fled in terror.
Their bravery in standing up to the jihadists comes as the Taliban still haven’t managed to form a government, leaving the country in a chaotic limbo as many people, particularly women, have lost their jobs.
The UN has warned that food stocks could run low by the end of the month as the country braces for an economic meltdown.
Ramiz Alakbarov, the UN’s deputy special representative for Afghanistan, said that a third of the population was already going hungry.
‘More than half of Afghan children do not know whether they’ll have a meal tonight or not,’ Alakbarov said at a news briefing last Wednesday. ‘That’s the reality of the situation we’re facing on the ground.’
Afghanistan’s economy is in tatters after the West withdrew funding following the fall of the government last month.
Washington and international institutions such as the World Bank cut off aid, and the Taliban has been unable to access around $9 billion in treasury reserves held in foreign currency overseas.
Prices for essentials such as milk and flour have skyrocketed, sparking fears of runaway inflation.
And then there’s the issue of obtaining money in the first place, with most Afghans unable to withdraw cash because banks have been closed and ATMs emptied since the Taliban victory.
Taliban members patrol after they took over Panjshir Valley, the only province the group had not seized during its sweep last month in Afghanistan on September 6, 2021
Taliban members pose for a photo after they took over Panjshir Valley, the only province the group had not seized during its sweep last month in Afghanistan on September 6, 2021
Ahmad Massoud (pictured centre in 2019), the leader of the Afghan National Resistance Front called on Afghans to ‘begin a national uprising for the dignity, freedom and prosperity of our country’
The Taliban have repeatedly sought to reassure Afghans and foreign countries that they will not reimpose the brutal rule of their last period in power, when they carried out violent public punishments and barred women and girls from public life.
But more than three weeks after they swept into Kabul, they have yet to announce a government or give details about the social restrictions they will now enforce.
Asked whether the United States would recognise the Taliban, U.S. President Joe Biden told reporters at the White House late Monday: ‘That’s a long way off.’
Teachers and students at universities in Afghanistan’s largest cities – Kabul, Kandahar and Herat – told Reuters that female students were being segregated in class with curtains, taught separately or restricted to certain parts of the campus.
One female student said women sat apart from males in university classes before the Taliban took over, but classrooms were not physically divided.
‘Putting up curtains is not acceptable,’ Anjila, the 21-year-old student at Kabul University, told Reuters by telephone.
‘I really felt terrible when I entered the class … We are gradually going back to 20 years ago.’
Inside Afghanistan, hundreds of medical facilities are at risk of closure because the Western donors are barred from dealing with the Taliban, a World Health Organization official said.
Video shared on social media shows four Taliban members hoisting the Islamist militants’ white and black flag up a flagpole as two heavily armed gunmen watch on
The Taliban has raised its flag outside its new ‘headquarters’ in Panjshir province – the last holdout of anti-Taliban forces in Afghanistan since the group’s blitz across the country last month
Taliban members patrol after they took over Panjshir Valley, September 6
Taliban members patrol after they took over Panjshir Valley, the only province the group had not seized during its sweep last month in Afghanistan on September 6
The WHO is trying fill the gap by providing supplies, equipment and financing to 500 health centres, and was liaising with Qatar for medical deliveries, the UN health agency’s regional emergency director, Rick Brennan, told Reuters.
U.S.-led foreign forces evacuated about 124,000 foreigners and at-risk Afghans in the weeks before the last U.S. troops left Kabul, but tens of thousands who fear Taliban retribution were left behind.
About 1,000 people, including Americans, have been stuck in northern Afghanistan for days awaiting clearance for charter flights to leave, an organiser told Reuters, blaming the delay on the U.S. State Department. Reuters could not independently verify the details of the account.
UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said the agency had registered 300 children who had been separated from their families during the chaotic evacuations from Kabul airport.
‘Some of these children were evacuated on flights to Germany, Qatar and other countries … We expect this number to rise through ongoing identification efforts,’ she said in a statement.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid (pictured) told a news conference on Monday that the group had seized control of Panjshir
Pictured: NRF forces, seen here in an undated picture, observe from a hill in Panjshir province
Inside Afghanistan, drought and war have forced about 5.5 million people to flee their homes, including more than 550,000 newly displaced in 2021, according to the International Organization for Migration.
Western powers say they are prepared to send humanitarian aid, but broader economic engagement would depend on the make-up of the Islamists’ new government in Kabul.
China’s ambassador to Afghanistan promised to provide humanitarian aid during a meeting with senior Taliban official Mawlawi Abdul Salam Hanifi in Kabul on Monday, Tolo news reported.
China has not officially recognised the Taliban as Afghanistan’s new rulers, but Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi last month hosted Mullah Baradar, chief of the group’s political office, and has said the world should guide the new government rather than pressure it.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin meanwhile met Qatar’s ruling emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, as Washington seeks to build a consensus among allies on how to respond to Taliban rule.
Blinken also spoke on Monday with Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmed Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Sabah, and thanked him for Kuwait’s assistance with evacuations, the State Department said.