Chaos and fear have gripped Afghanistan in the past month with the fleeting advance of the Taliban across the country and the final decisive conquest of Kabul. Radical fundamentalists have taken over 33 of the 34 provinces of the country. They are missing one: Panshir province, which presents itself as a thread of hope and defense for Afghans who refuse to hand over power to the Taliban.
Panshir, a valley of approximately 173,000 inhabitants in the northeast of the country, with 96 kilometers of mountainous terrain, has been a untamed land in conflict history that the country has. The province resisted ten Soviet offensives between 1979 and 1989. Between 1996 and 2001, the Panshir Valley was the only territory in Afghanistan that resisted the occupation of the Taliban. This time also hold, at least for now. It has not yet been attacked by the fundamentalists.
From there was the hero mujahideen Ahmad Shah Masud, also known as the León de Panshir, an anti-Taliban legend who led the Northern Alliance until the day of his assassination, September 9, 2001, two days before Al Qaeda’s attack in New York on September 11 of that year.
Now his 32-year-old son Ahmad Masud |, has been organizing a resistance front for days to fight the Taliban with the support of the current self-proclaimed interim president of the country, Amrullah Saleh, who has not fled the country like the majority of the Afghan Government and decided to move to the only province that remains under Taliban control.
“My comrades in arms and I we are willing to give our blood. We call on all free Afghans, all those who reject serfdom, to join our stronghold of Panshir, the last free region in our troubled land, “Masud said in a manifesto published by the French magazine. Rules of the Game.
Saleh, also born in Panshir, declared himself the “legitimate president” and encouraged resistance to the Taliban after the president fled Ashraf Ghani. “I will never surrender to the Taliban. I will never betray Ahmad Shah Masud, our commander, guide and legend. Join the resistance,” he said on Twitter last Sunday when Kabul fell into the hands of the fundamentalist group.
The Afghan people do not have the same reverence for Saleh as they do for him. León de Panshir, but he has held positions that give him authority. He headed the Afghan intelligence agency created in 2004, was a key asset for the CIA, according to The Times, and was Minister of the Interior in 2018 until his appointment as First Vice President in January 2019.
The target of several attacks, Saleh came out alive in 2019 from an attack in which more than 30 people died after several suicide explosions and the assault on the Afghan government building where he worked. It was one of the five survivors that were in the building.
He is an anti-Taliban figure willing to die for his people. This was demonstrated in words in an interview with The Times in February of this year: “I am prepared to die with 100 bullets in the chest and in the head instead of being part of an agreement that sells the rights of my people to a medieval terrorist organization [los talibanes]Now he shows it by staying in Afghanistan to lead alongside Masud the last bastion that wants to challenge the Taliban.
Strong earth, but without supports
Although the valley is surrounded by the Taliban, the mountainous terrain of Panshir is a natural fortress. problematic for fundamentalist radicals. The antecedents against the Soviets in the 1980s and against the Taliban themselves in the late 1990s confirm their resistance. Furthermore, the historical and current determination of the people of Panshir to prevent the Taliban invasion further complicates this. The population is unlikely to surrender to the Taliban as they have done in other parts of the country.
Since the arrival of the Taliban in Kabul, an undetermined number around the 2,500 Afghan soldiers, according to him New York Times, have arrived in the Panshir Valley with weapons, tanks and military equipment after their withdrawal from various battle fronts. The number of soldiers and the weapons they possess, however, they don’t seem enough to confront the Taliban.
🇦🇫 Dozens of vehicles parade through Panjshir province carrying the flag of the Islamic United Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan. The Front, better known as the Northern Alliance, was the main resistance organization against the Taliban between 1996 and 2001. pic.twitter.com/dHbS0IPfJB
– Deciphering the War (@descifraguerra) August 18, 2021
The human and material resources they possess invite pessimism, but this scarcity is also compounded by the lack of international support that the province did receive 20 years ago.
Ahmed Masud himself admitted this in an article published in The Washinton Post this week calling for international support: “If they attack us, they will meet firm resistance. However, we know that our capabilities with what we have at the moment will not be enough He expressed the son of the ‘Lion of Panshir’—. The material will run out quickly unless our friends in the West find a way to supply us with military resources. We need more bullets and more guns. The United States and its democratic allies are our last hope. ”
For now, they are the main and only obstacle for the Taliban to gain complete conquest of Afghanistan. Time will tell if Ahmad Masud, Amrullah Saleh and the Panshir Valley stay alone in the middle of a taliban country Or they become what the Taliban have been until they took almost total control last Sunday: insurgents.