KABUL: The Taliban claimed victory on Monday over opposition forces in the Panjshir valley northeast of Kabul, completing their takeover of the country following the capture of Kabul last month and the chaotic withdrawal of foreign troops.
Pictures on social media showed Taliban members standing in front of the gate of the Panjshir provincial governor’s compound after fighting over the weekend with the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRFA), led by Panjshiri leader Ahmad Massoud.
“Panjshir province completely fell to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a tweet on Monday, adding that some enemy fighters had been killed in battle and others had fled.
“With this victory and latest efforts our country has come out of the whirlpool of the war and our people will have a happy life in peace, liberty and freedom in the entire country.”
The Taliban assured the people of Panjshir, who are ethnically distinct from the Pashtun-dominated Taliban and fought against the Islamists during their 1996-2001 rule, that there would be no “discriminatory act against them”. “They are our brothers and would work together for a joint purpose and welfare of the country,” Mujahid said.
There was no immediate word from Massoud, who leads a force made up of remnants of regular Afghan army and special forces units as well as local militia fighters.
Ali Maisam Nazary, head of foreign relations at NRFA, said the Taliban’s claim of victory was false and opposition forces continued to fight. “The NRF forces are present in all strategic positions across the valley to continue the fight,” he said on his Facebook page.
The Taliban earlier said their forces had made it into the provincial capital, Bazarak, and had captured large quantities of weapons and ammunition. As fighting raged in the valley on Sunday, Massoud said he welcomed proposals from religious scholars for a negotiated settlement.
Several attempts at talks were held after clashes erupted about two weeks ago but eventually broke down, with each side blaming the other for their failure. Panjshir was the last pocket of armed resistance against the Taliban and has a history of being difficult for enemies to take.
The NRFA said on Sunday its main spokesman, Fahim Dashti, had been killed in the fighting. Dashti had survived the suicide attack that killed Massoud’s father, Ahmad Shah Massoud, on September 9, 2001, just days before the September 11 attacks on the United States. The Panjshir fighting has been the most prominent example of resistance to the Taliban.