The Taliban announced that it had conquered the entire Punjir province, which was the last site of anti-Tibetan resistance in Afghanistan. Photographs have appeared on social networks of Taliban fighters standing in front of the gates of the governor’s residence in the province’s administrative center, raising their white flag there. However, opposition leader Ahmad Masoud said today that resistance forces were still in Punjir and that they would continue to fight. He called on the Afghans for a nationwide uprising.
“Punjshir, who was the last refuge of the enemy, was occupied,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said at a press conference. He promised that local people would not be persecuted or discriminated against in any way and that electricity supplies and internet connections would be restored in Punjir today.
According to him, no civilians were killed in the conquest. “We tried to solve this problem by negotiation, but they rejected the talks, so we had to send our forces into battle.” said Mujahideen.
They will continue to fight
In recent days, tough clashes and successes have taken place in the isolated, hard-to-reach Punjir Valley, which Soviet troops failed to capture in the 1980s and then in the 1990s. The Taliban had previously announced that it had seized the last stronghold of its opponents, but the other party refuted it. The Taliban’s claim was rejected by the opposition today.
Opposition leader Masoud wrote on Twitter that he was safe, and later called on the Afghan people to revolt against the Taliban in an almost 19-minute recording shared on social networks. He claimed that some members of his own family had died in the Taliban’s attack on Punjir, and accused the international community of legitimizing the Taliban, strengthening its military and political confidence.
According to him, resistance forces are still present in Punjir and will continue the fight. A representative of the National Resistance Front, Ali Nazari, had previously said that opposition forces “hold strategic positions”.
One of Afghanistan’s smallest provinces, Punjir, located north of Kabul, is home to about 150,000 to 200,000 people from various ethnic groups, mostly Tajiks. The scenic Punjir Valley is wedged between the Hindu Kush mountain peaks, 3,000 meters away.
The death of a famous journalist
The current leader of the resistance, 32-year-old Ahmad Masoud, is the son of legendary Afghan opposition leader against the Taliban and previously against the Soviet occupation of Ahmad Shah Masoud, who died in 2001 in an assassination attempt by the al-Qaeda terrorist network.
He was joined in Punjir by hundreds of former Afghan government troops and members of the Special Forces, as well as former Vice President Amrullah Salih, who was born in Punjir and fought alongside the late Ahmad Shah Masoud in the past. According to today’s statement by Taliban spokesman Salih and Masud fled to Tajikistan.
On Sunday, the National Resistance Front announced on Twitter that its main spokesman and well-known Afghan journalist Fahim Dashti had fallen in the fighting. A Taliban spokesman denied that Dashti had died in battle with the Taliban; according to him, he died in a conflict between two Punjshi commanders.
Dasti was the nephew of the high representative of the former Afghan government, Abdullah Abdullah, who is now involved in negotiations with the Taliban on the future of Afghanistan, the AP agency wrote. In 2001, Dashti assassinated, killing Ahmad Shah Masoud, the “Lion of the Punjir”.
Accusations of Pakistan
The Taliban’s attack on Punjir has strongly condemned Iran, which shares a 900-kilometer border with Afghanistan. Shiite Iran has refrained from criticizing the Sunni Taliban from its inception to the present day. “The news from Punjir is very worrying. We strongly condemn this attack,” Said Khattibzadeh, a spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, told a news conference in Tehran today. “I have always emphasized that this dispute must be resolved through dialogue,” added.
He also condemned Khatbezade in allusion to Pakistan “any foreign interference in Afghanistan’s affairs”. The Afghan government overthrown by the Taliban has repeatedly accused Pakistan of supporting the Taliban. The media in India, Pakistan’s biggest regional rival, has reported unsubstantiated in recent days that one of the killed Taliban fighters was found to have a Pakistani identity card and that Islamists were being helped by Pakistani military drones in their attack on Punjir.
Experts in recent days have expressed doubts that Punjir will withstand the Taliban for a long time. The hope for the area was the winter coming in late October, during which the Taliban would probably not be able to lead a large-scale offensive for five months, which would give the rebels time to regroup their positions, BBC News reported.