The last hope for an Afghanistan with a haven for the Taliban’s enemies is in Panjshir Valley, just north of Kabul. Resistance fighters led by Ahmad Massoud, the son of a legendary anti-Taliban commander, are fending off the largest Taliban advance on the territory under their control to date, according to reports:
Taliban fighters have launched their largest attack to capture #Panjsher this evening. Anti-Taliban forces, which include former fighters of senior Massoud and soldiers of the collapsed govt, have been able to push back every attack in the past three days. #Afghanistan
— Sharif Hassan (@MSharif1990) September 2, 2021
The battle for Panjshir – intense fighting tonight as the Taliban launch their biggest attack yet on the anti-Taliban resistance, just north-east of the capital. The fighters led by Ahmad Massoud and fmr VP @AmrullahSaleh2 are refusing to give up despite being entirely surrounded
— Yalda Hakim (@BBCYaldaHakim) September 2, 2021
A member of the Taliban’s cultural commission claimed “the other side has suffered heavy casualties.” Hospital beds in the province are “filling up as violence escalates,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Frud Bezhan reported.
Massoud, and former Afghan vice president Amrullah Saleh, who is sheltering in the valley as he asserts his role as the country’s vice president, have worked to build international support for the anti-Taliban resistance fighters, who have fended off a number of Taliban attacks over the past few weeks, as peace negotiations took place.
But those talks with the Taliban collapsed this week, and Amir Khan Muttaqi, a senior member of the group, which controls almost the entirety of the rest of Afghanistan, said, “Those who wish to surrender may do so; those who wish to fight will be combated.”
The Taliban began a significant offensive a bit before he issued that threat, and the campaign has escalated since then.
The stakes of the outcome of this fight are likely to have resounding implications for U.S. counterterrorism efforts in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
The Taliban continue to work with al-Qaeda, and there is overlap in the top ranks of the two groups. In fact, Al Arabiya reported that al-Qaeda has joined the Taliban offensive.
These developments only serve to back up what Representative Mike Waltz, who is leading a push to support the Panjshir opposition forces, told me yesterday about their potential to act as a “bulwark against what we know is going to come, which is a massive and significant threat from ISIS and al-Qaeda.”
With an American presence in Afghanistan, a Panjshir controlled by pro-American forces, as Waltz said, could play a role in disrupting terrorist plots.
Unfortunately, calls to back the Panjshir opposition have fallen on deaf ears, with the Biden administration unlikely to lift a finger. Congress can and should act, but by then it might be too late.
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