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Is Taliban’s threat of overrunning Panjshir valley a hoax?

Is Taliban’s threat of overrunning Panjshir valley a hoax?

The Taliban on Sunday announced that hundreds of its fighters are heading to attack the Panjshir valley, the crucible of resistance against their rule, led by Ahmad Massoud.

“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 movement wrote on its Arabic Twitter account.

But its lightning advance including the a virtually bloodless seizure of Kabul on August 15 notwithstanding, the Taliban will find the Panjshiris, known for their fighting skills, a tough nut to crack.

There are five reasons why the Taliban may find the going onerous in case they choose to attack the Panjshir valley.

First, the Panjshiris are highly motivated fighters. The legendary Ahmad Shah Massoud, the man who helped in bringing  down  the former Soviet Union on account of his contribution to the anti-Soviet Jihad in the eighties continues to remain an inspirational icon. The memory of  Massoud’s  treacherous murder on September 9,2001, by the Al-Qaida, who were sheltered by the Taliban, continues to fuel feelings  of injustice, loss and revenge— the oxygen that fires a highly motivated fighting force.

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Second, the Panjshiris are a cohesive lot, mostly of  Tajik ethnicity, which gives them a clear identity, purpose and a common historical legacy—all reinforcing their bonds with each other against the Taliban led mostly by Pashtun tribesmen.

Third, the Panjshiris are cohesively led. Ahmad Massoud is the son of the martyred Ahmad Shah Massoud. The common bloodline greatly helps in imparting continuity to the resistance. Others in the leadership ranks, include Amrullah Saleh, the formidable former Vice President, who has emerged as a rallying symbol of the budding resistance. Others in the resistance ranks include former defence minister Bismillah Mohammadi . Two other names  Haibatullah Alizai and Sami Sadat, two young guns who were appointed as top generals by deposed President Ashraf Ghani at the eleventh hour may count in case combat with the Taliban begins.

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Fourth, the Taliban will have to tackle the extremely tough terrain of the Panjshir valley, which is ideal for a long-haul guerrilla warfare.

As in the Vietnam war and other theatres of conflict such as Cuba, a successful guerrilla campaign will require assured supply lines and diplomatic support at a high level. Already Russia and Iran have made it plain that while they are ready to dialogue with the Taliban,  a political transition is in Afghanistan is still a work in progress. In the end this may be possible only if the Panjshiris emerge a solid counterforce to the Taliban on the ground, opening the door for a fresh and more even-handed dialogue, leading to a durable reconciliation.

In the Panjshir Valley, Ahmad Masoud, has gathered a fighting force of approximately 9,000 members, AFP is reporting quoting a Panjshiri official.

Earlier, in an interview with the Al Arabiya television station, Ahmad Massoud, refused to surrender the Panjshir valley to the extremist group, but expressed his readiness for a dialogue.

But Massoud also  asserted that he was not ready to cede control of the Panjshir valley, and this was his bottom line for any dialogue. According to Al Arabiya, the Taliban had given Massoud a four-hour ultimatum to give up Panjshir valley, north of Kabul.