September 23, 2021

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Interview – Since the Taliban took power, thousands of Afghans have joined the Banshir Valley, where Ahmed Masood, the son of the famous commander Ahmad Shah Masood, wants to lead the opposition to the fundamentalist regime. Kareem Baqsad, a researcher associated with IRIS, is reviewing the situation in this part of the country.

If the Taliban came to power on August 15 after a military campaign faster than expected, they would not have taken control of the entire country yet. Armed forces, led in opposition to fundamentalist rule, have been reorganized, especially in the Banshir Valley, northeast of Kabul.

The National Opposition Front, led by Ahmed Masood, the son of Ahmed Shah Masood, a prominent commander who led a protest against the Soviet invasion, aims to prevent further bloodshed and promote a new government. At first they refused any compromise, declaring that the Taliban had surrounded the self-proclaimed opposition fighters and were finally ready to negotiate.

We return with the researcher associated with IRIS, Kareem Baxat, on the importance of this region.

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Afghanistan in the hands of the Taliban

How to explain that the opposition in Afghanistan is organized in this Panjir area?

It is connected with the geographical position of this valley. Panshir Valley is very deep, very long, surrounded by high mountains, especially with limited access. It is very difficult for an army or any group to get into it. This is the situation of Soviet soldiers, today of the Taliban. They control the country, but they have not yet attacked the Panshir Valley.

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Second, the area has become a valley of resistance since General Masood established opposition against the Red Army. They now maintain a tradition of protest there, this time continued by his son Ahmed Masood. He is very intelligent and at the age of 32, his father’s heir.

Panshir Valley is very long, surrounded by high mountains and has very limited access– Kareem Baghdad, IRS Associate Analyst

Is it linked to the various ethnic groups that make up the region?

Any political issue in Afghanistan is an ethnic issue. The Taliban are largely Pashtuns, part of the Banjir Valley Tajik tribe. These two ethnic groups have always been rivals. Not only against the Soviet invasion, but also against the new regime that was put in place. Now they have political demands. They want to establish an inclusive government in Kabul with representatives of all ethnic groups in Afghanistan.

Ahmed Masood is the representative of his generation. He is educated and trained. This is why he announced his readiness to negotiate with the Taliban within the framework of an inclusive government. Somehow, we find that there is a very important evolution compared to the past: Ahmed Masood takes almost secular positions.

Establishing a balance of power

Is there evidence to oppose Panshir Valley?

For now, the Panzeer Valley is not surrounded by the Taliban. There is no war yet between the Taliban and the opposition militants. Three days ago in eastern Lakhman province, three districts were liberated by local militants. The Taliban then launched a counter-attack, announcing on Monday that they had recaptured the area. But now, a protest is starting to take center stage. In military terms, he is not such a bad weapon. Many thousands of elite Afghan soldiers who could not fight the Taliban due to lack of proper hierarchy took refuge in the Panjir Valley. We are talking about twenty helicopters, dozens of tanks, armored cars, so now it is very difficult for the Taliban to attack the Panshir Valley. According to my information, 6000 militants have been re-integrated in the region.

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Read more

  • Panjir, the area is not occupied by the Taliban, where protests are organized
  • Afghanistan: The Taliban has announced an attack on the Panjir Valley

Today we face an “internal invasion”. It is not a struggle against foreign power, but a struggle against an Islamic and fundamentalist movement that seeks to rule Afghanistan. Opposition comes from within. This is why, if the Taliban occasionally start a war against the Banshir Valley, opposition across the country is likely to intensify, and the Taliban know that.

Anti-combatants will use the same strategy of the Taliban against the US military, i.e., guerrilla warfare, starting in areas where the Taliban are weak, in the north. Opposition to Panshir is of paramount importance across the region and the Taliban are well aware of it. For now, on both sides, negotiations are being offered, but the key is space.

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