Panjshir’s final holdout did not go to the Taliban: NPR

An Afghan anti-Taliban fighter is seen walking on a hill in the Anaba district of the Panjshir province of Afghanistan on Wednesday. Arman / Xinhua News Agency via Getty Ima hide caption

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Arman / Xinhua News Agency via Getty Ima

An Afghan anti-Taliban fighter is seen walking on a hill in the Anaba district of the Panjshir province of Afghanistan on Wednesday.

Arman / Xinhua News Agency via Getty Ima

A group of Afghan resistance fighters holed up in the rugged Panjshir province northeast of Kabul has repeatedly repelled attacks by Taliban fighters in the past few days, a representative of the group told NPR.

Speaking to NPR’s All Things Considered on Friday, Ali Nazary, the current US-based foreign relations director for the National Resistance Front, also denied reports that the Taliban have taken control of the province – the last major territory to operate between the Islamist militias and total control of Afghanistan – the rumors are known as “propaganda”.

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The Panjshir Valley “was not breached,” he told host Audie Cornish. “The Taliban are facing fierce opposition.”

“The Taliban’s propaganda machine is trying to divert attention, spread propaganda, and weaken morale in Kabul and elsewhere,” said Nazary, who says he is in close contact with NRF officials in Panjshir.

Nazary’s remarks came on a day when both the Taliban and the NRF were calling for victories and denying defeat. In sharp contrast to Nazary’s remarks, there have been reports of the Taliban’s alleged victory in Panjshir in the Afghan capital of Kabul.

The NRF, which claims to have around 10,000 fighters, is made up of various local militias and former Afghan security forces. It is led by the West-educated son of the legendary mujahideen commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was murdered in the days leading up to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The elder Massoud is known to have helped fight both the Soviet Army and the Taliban from a standstill from his stronghold in the Panjshir Valley, located in the Hindu Kush Mountains.

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Joining Massoud’s opposition is Amrullah Saleh, who was vice-president under President Ashraf Ghani, who fled the country last month as the Taliban approached the capital. In a video posted on social media, Saleh also denied defeat rumors.

Countering reports that he and Massoud also fled, the former vice president told his supporters that he was in the Panjshir Valley and that the NRF had “stood firm” and would continue to fight.

Nazary said the Taliban launched their latest – and largest to date – offensive in hopes of capturing Panjshir before announcing a new government.

“Fortunately, our troops fought them valiantly. They repelled all of their attacks,” he said, adding that the Taliban had even withdrawn from some areas.

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Panjshir has been described as a natural fortress against invaders, but it is not clear how long the resistance can hold against a larger and better-equipped Taliban force.

Nazary said elements of al-Qaeda have joined the Taliban and the resistance is fighting them “alone”.

“The whole world has left us,” he said. “We don’t get any help in any form. And we are currently fighting al-Qaida and international terrorism. And everyone is ignoring that.”

However, as he continued to fight, Nazary said the resistance had “lines of communication” with the Taliban and had launched a previously unsuccessful call for a say in the new government.

“The Taliban movement does not represent the vast majority of the Afghan people. The vast majority are against them,” he said. “In order for them to form an inclusive government, they must involve all ethnic groups, all political forces, all political parties from across the country, both women and men.”

“Unfortunately, right now in the government they form, they ignore 50 percent of society that is women,” Nazary said.

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