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Fierce fighting rages in Panjshir as anti-Taliban forces hammer call for an inclusive government in Afghanistan

Over the past few weeks, the armed anti-Taliban resistance has picked up momentum in this area. The new round of fighting has essentially begun as a response to a call from Ahmad Masood for a renewed combat against the Taliban.

Away from the media glare, a fierce battle is ongoing between the Taliban and Ahmad Massoud led National Resistance Force (NRF) on many fronts in Panjshir Valley and other parts of northern Afghanistan.

Over the past few weeks, the armed anti-Taliban resistance has picked up momentum in this area. The new round of fighting has essentially begun as a response to a call from Ahmad Masood for a renewed combat against the Taliban.

The National Resistance Front has claimed that it has “liberated” three large districts from Taliban control. “We are present in many areas of Dara, and Abshar as well as many areas of Andarab,” reported TOLO News, the Afghan news channel, quoting the NRF spokesman, Sibghatullah Ahmadi. All these areas, supposedly reclaimed by the NRF, are situated in Panjshir Valley where the resistance had launched the first armed offensive against the Taliban when it seized power last August after toppling the previous regime.

“Intense fighting is underway between the NRF and Taliban in Andarab district of Baghlan province. They killed at least 8 Taliban fighters and wounded 6. One NRF fighter also has been killed,” Sibghatullah Ahmadi told TOLO news.

The Taliban have denied that it has suffered casualties. “These claims are untrue. There was some gunfire from the mountains. We have taken steps to suppress them,” was the version of a spokesman in the Panjshir government office. Six Islamic Emirate troops have died in the clashes so far. “The claims of much higher casualties made by opponents are untrue”. But various posts on social media have shown the pictures of the top Taliban leaders visiting those areas where the battles are raging.

In the last two weeks, the defence minister of the Taliban regime, Mullah Yaqoob was seen on a front in Panjshir valley.  A French journalist Frenkie Mark, who is close to NRF leaders, wrote on social media that Yaqoob’s son has been captured by the NRF fighters but the Taliban have denied it.

The state-run Bakhtar news agency, reported on Wednesday  about the visit of Deputy Prime Minister Mullah Baradar to Panjshir. The news agency wrote in a video that Mullah Baradar met with military and civilian officials and "shared the necessary guidance and advice with them."

According to the agency, Mullah Baradar met with a number of Panjshir elders and asked them to support the Taliban government and prevent locals from joining the resistance forces.

The Resistance Front claims the Taliban  have perpetrated “genocide” in Panjshir, Andarab, and Takhar.

“Massacring civilians will not demoralize us but will strengthen our resolve to liberate our country from these criminals.” the Resistance Front’s Foreign Relations Head, Ali Maisam Nazari, tweeted.

According to Afghan journalists, the Resistance groups are unlikely to defeat the Taliban’s superior firepower but they could dig in for the long haul, embedding among local populations and using knowledge of the terrain for a guerrilla-style hit-and-run insurgency. This seems to be the Taliban’s greatest fear, and explains the vicious response to the uprisings, including reported arbitrary executions of civilians in some hotspots. 

The NRF leaders exhorted the Taliban rulers to form a more inclusive government or risk civil war.

 “We demand the Taliban end their destruction and set the table for talks to find solutions to the current problems of Afghanistan. The Islamists should learn from the experiences of history that no group can have a stable government through acts of force and pressure,” said Ahmad Massoud, the NRF leader and son of Ahmad Shah Massoud, the Lion of Panjshir.

Last month, 40 political figures met in Ankara at the invitation of former Afghan vice-president and warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, who found refuge in Turkey after Kabul fell in August.

“The Taliban should accept that they can’t run the government or rule alone.” Otherwise “Afghanistan will experience civil war once again,” the Council said in a statement.

Afghan diplomatic missions which have refused to obey the new Taliban rulers, have condemned the Taliban executions, hostage-taking and torture of civilians, including women and children, in Panjshir saying “graphic evidence” shows that these “crimes” are considered war crimes and crimes against humanity.

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