The National Resistance Front of Afghanistan claims that it has been able to hold off multiple attacks from Taliban forces, as heavy fighting is reported between the Panjshir Valley-based resistance and Taliban fighters on the outskirts of Panjshir province and the neighbouring Kapisa and Parwan provinces.
Intense combat broke out on Wednesday following reports that negotiations between the Taliban and National Resistance Front leader Ahmad Massoud have broken down. Massoud had stated that the Resistance was willing to negotiate with the Taliban should they be sincere in forming an inclusive government that guaranteed human rights and equality for all Afghans, but talks later stalled, with National Resistance Front head of foreign affairs Ali Nazary saying to the Wall Street Journal last week that “the problem is that they are unwilling to make any concessions. And we’re unwilling to accept any type of political system that isn’t inclusive”.
Taliban forces cut telephone and internet connections into the Panjshir Valley over the weekend, with pro-Taliban propagandists using the information blackout to claim that skirmishes earlier this week were due to resistance forces attacking Taliban fighters that have taken positions around the entrances to the valley. The resistance now says that they have beaten back Taliban advances, although territorial and casualty claims remain difficult to verify even after partial reconnection of communications.
Current fighting is now said to be between National Resistance Front fighters holding the line against Taliban forces at the Khawak Pass leading into the Panjshir Valley from the northeast, in addition to resistance counteroffensives in Panjshir’s Shotul and Rah Tang districts. Some accounts claim that Bazaar Shirkat, Jamalagha, Deh Baba Ali and Kuhband districts of the neighbouring Kapisa province have been captured from the Taliban by the resistance. Especially heavy fighting has been reported in Gulbahar, with at least six resistance fighters said to have died in fighting for the district at the southern entrance to the valley.
National Resistance Front spokesperson Fahim Dashty stated on Wednesday that Taliban forces attempting to move through the Khawak Pass “did not advance even a kilometer”, claiming that at least 40 Taliban fighters were killed and around 35 more injured in fighting for the Khawak Pass over the past 40 hours, with four Taliban Humvees and two Ford Ranger pickup trucks destroyed. He had previously said on Monday that there were captures of both Taliban fighters and their equipment.
While the Taliban has claimed to be willing to form an “inclusive” government since the fall of the Ghani government, the Panjshir resistance’s demands apparently being too much for them do not bode well for the definition of “inclusive” in use, even if not necessarily a surprise. While the United States and the G7 among others have vowed to hold the Taliban accountable for their pledges even after the departure of foreign troops from Afghanistan, foreign leverage on the Taliban seems elusive.