From the top of a steep summit in Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley, which was a site of resistance to the invader in the past, anti-Italian forces train with heavy machine guns in the face of possible combat.
They are the members of the National Resistance Front (FNR), the main opposition group, ready to fight to the death against the taliban, who have controlled the Asian country for almost ten days.
In their ranks, militiamen and former members of the Afghan security forces are preparing for defense: heavy machine guns, mortars and lookouts scattered throughout this deep valley 80 km northeast of Kabul, whose main access forms a bottleneck.
The fighters, many of whom still wear camouflage uniforms, patrol the area aboard Humvees, US military vehicles equipped with heavy weaponry.
Men resisting the Taliban in Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley train with long weapons. Photo: AFP
With the snow-capped mountains in the background, some pose with assault rifles, rocket launchers and walkie-talkies.
“They will bite the dust,” brags a soldier who lists the defeats of the Taliban amid the shouts of “Allah Akbar” (God is great) from his comrades.
Against the Soviet invasion
The Panjshir Valley is a symbol in Afghanistan. Narrow and surrounded by high peaks, it was the grave of the ambitions of many invaders.
The slopes of the mountains are dotted with troop trucks, war tanks, and more. rust-gnawed Soviet equipment, a memory of the defeats of the USSR before the fearsome Panshiris, of Tajik ethnic group, during the war in Afghanistan (1979-1989).
“If the Taliban warlords launch an offensive, they will meet our fierce resistance,” Ahmad Masud, one of the leaders of the FNR, warned last week in a rostrum published by The Washington Post.
Masud is the son of the legendary commander Ahmed Shah Masud, considered a hero by many Tajiks for having resisted the Soviets and the Taliban.
During 1996 and 2001, in the previous Taliban government, Panjshir was one of the few areas that “students of religion” could not control.
Commander Masud was assassinated two days before the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States by al Qaeda kamikazes posing as journalists.
Anti-Taliban fighters, this Tuesday in the Panjshir Valley, in Afghanistan. Photo: AFP
This weekend, a spokesman for the FNR told the AFP agency that his movement was ready to resist any attack by the Taliban, but also to negotiate their entry into a government representative.
Although they sent troops to surround the valley on three sides, the Taliban want to speak, said their spokesman, Zabihulá Mujahid.
Risk of humanitarian crisis
Former Afghan Vice President Amrulá Salé, a declared enemy of the Taliban (who tried to assassinate him on several occasions), he also took refuge in the Panjshir.
“The Taliban do not allow the supply of the Andarab valley,” bordering the Panjshir, as he wrote on Twitter. “Thousands of women and children fled to the mountains.”
Those fighting the Taliban use military vehicles left behind by the United States. Photo: AFP
Salé stated that a humanitarian disaster was imminent.
The Taliban claim that Andarab is under their control.
Both sides evoked skirmishes in recent days, with different versions of events that cannot be verified.
The Italian NGO Emergency said last week that there were “a growing number of war wounded” at its Panjshir hospital.
The military preparation and supplies of arms and ammunition that the FNR may have stored in the valley in recent times is unknown.
“We know that our military strength and logistics are not enough” to resist a siege of several months, Ahmad Masud acknowledged in The Washington Post.
The reserves “will run out quickly unless our Western friends find a way to supply us without delay,” he added.
Notables from the Panjshir Valley reportedly met with Taliban leaders in Kabul, but the discussions were unsuccessful, so far.