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Panjshir- The Valley Of Lions Is Caged, Tortured, But Not Defeated As It Opposes Taliban With Full Might

The latest: ‌Resistance against the Taliban has been gaining momentum in Panjshir, Badakhshan, Baghlan, and Takhar provinces. But Panjshir is the hotbed of recent clashes.

    • Clashes have reportedly spread to most parts of Panjshir. In reaction to this, according to ground reports, thousands of Taliban fighters have been sent to Panjshir from different parts of the country mainly Pashtuns. But confronted by the resistance front forces when they tried to enter the valley of Abdullah Khel in Dara district from Sar-e-Hawz area of ​​Hesarak district. Initial reports indicate that around 100 Taliban members were killed and wounded.
    • Images posted on social media by sources close to the Taliban show that the intensity of the fighting in Panjshir province and Andarab district in Baghlan province has drawn Taliban’s Haqqani Network appointed Deputy Defense Minister Haji Mali Khan to Panjshir.
    • Although the Taliban initially denied any fighting or military actions in Panjshir and other provinces, the group’s spokesman in Panjshir on May 10, said six Taliban fighters have been killed in the province after the videos released in social media showing the Taliban transporting the dead bodies of their fighters by helicopters and sending fresh Taliban troops to the area. On May 8, Taliban sent four helicopters to Panjshir province to eliminate the hideouts of the National Resistance front, reports confirmed.
    • At least 60 Taliban fighters were killed and injured in the fresh attacks in the Qasan valley of Andarab with four Pakistani militants among them, who were aiding the Taliban fighters.
    • In February, the Taliban “Red unit” commander “Mullah Ezatullah Kandahari” with nine other Taliban forces under his command were killed by the NRF fighters when they attacked “Doab” area of “Shotol” district of Panjshir.
    • On May 9, NRF reported casualties of Taliban in the offensives and announced that more than 22 Taliban have been killed and 7 injured in Andarab district of Baghlan province, 2 others were killed in Worsaj district of Takhar and 2 others in Khost district of Baghlan.
    • However, according to the commanders of the Resistance Front, Taliban armored tanks have no effect on the course of the war in this area because in mountainous areas such as Panjshir, the Taliban’s maneuvering dimensions with these tanks are very limited.

So, how did it start? Since the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan on August 15, 2021 until September 6, they delayed the announcement of their cabinet and decided to announce their core members after claiming control of Panjshir on September 6. Till then, the Panjshir Valley, which is dominated mostly by the Tajiks (the second largest ethnic group in the country) had still stood their ground and wasn’t under the control of the Taliban.

    • In reaction to the Taliban cabinet announcement, the National Resistance Front (NRF) described it as “illegal and a clear sign of the Taliban’s hostility to the people.” The front also encouraged the people to resist against the Taliban and called the group’s government a threat to the stability of Afghanistan, the region and the world.
    • After the end of Ramadan month, the NRF head of the foreign relations Ali Maisam Nazari announced on May 7, that the front forces have launched their offensives in Panjshir under the command of Khalid Amiri, a prominent former commander of the Afghan national army and liberated three major districts in Panjshir.

Take note: Amid the intensity of the conflicts between the Taliban and the anti-Taliban resistance groups, there have been reports of the alignment of some of the Taliban commanders with the National Resistance Front (NRF).

    • On May 8, the NRF announced that commander Malik, the Taliban’s police chief intelligence director for Panjshir defected to the NRF and his forces inflicted heavy casualties on the Taliban in Dara district of Panjshir.
    • As per reports, Darabay and Dr. Dawood, two local Taliban commanders in the Varsuj district of Takhar province, also rejected the Taliban’s order to fight the NRF.

But the most horrific are the Taliban war crimes: The Taliban have reportedly arrested, punished, taken hostages, and killed civilians after suffering casualties from the NRF in the northern regions.

    • NRF officials and social media users have posted videos of Taliban attacking civilians, as Ali Maisam Nazary, the NRF head of foreign relations said that more than 100 people have been taken hostage by the Taliban in Jerali village of Abshar district and Qal’a village of Abdullahkhil district. They have also tortured civilians in areas such as Piavush village in Rokha district, according to reports. Taliban remained silent in response to all the above claims.
    • Local sources in Takhar‘s Versuj district also said that Mullah Jan Mohammad, known as Mullah Janu, the Taliban deputy corps commander in the northeastern regions of Afghanistan, who is leading the fight in the Versuj district against the National Resistance Front, is carrying out a massacre.
    • According to sources, six people were shot dead in the village of Imand Darreh Kunduz in the Versuj district of Takhar on the orders of Mullah Janu. Two of them were farmers and one was a teacher.
    • The Jamiat-e Islami-yi Afghanistan, an anti-soviet Jihadi group led by former foreign minister Salahuddin Rabbani also accused the Taliban of war crimes and in a statement on May 9 claimed that the Taliban had killed innocent people in Panjshir and Baghlan
    • According to local sources, the Taliban shot dead two teenagers in Andarab in the village of Darhshu, Pulhesar Andarab, after torturing them. The Taliban are said to have tortured and killed innocent people in the region in response to the group’s heavy defeats by the NRF in Andrab and Qasan.
    • Meanwhile, according to reports from Herat, the Taliban are also segregating Panjshiri residents from the people and interrogating each of them individually as the people crossed the Islam Qala border, the border between Iran and Afghanistan.
    • The latest reports from Panjshir province indicate that the Taliban have burned houses of Panjshir residents under the pretext of burning homes NRF members on fire.

What were the reactions from the international community? Well, there has not been a massive uproar internationally regarding the Taliban’s war crimes against civilians in Panjshir.

    • Afghan diplomatic missions have condemned the Taliban executions, hostage-taking and torture of civilians, including women and children, in Panjshir, Andrab Baghlan and Versaj districts of Takhar, saying “graphic evidence” shows that these “crimes” are considered war crimes and crimes against humanity.
    • Afghan diplomatic missions in a statement said that in addition to violating human rights, the Taliban’s actions have fueled internal and ethnic tensions.
    • Nasir Ahmad Fayiq, head of Afghanistan’s permanent representative to the United Nations, said that killings of civilians, mainly Tajiks, by the Taliban in Panjshir, Takhar and Andarab provinces are war crimes and flagrant violations of international humanitarian and international human rights laws. He added these acts must stop.
    • EU ambassador in Afghanistan Von Brandth said he is “concerned” by the reports of killings of civilians and mistreatment in Panjshir, adding that this situation underlines the need for overdue inclusive solutions in governing Afghanistan.

What is the situation on ground? The reports of hostage-taking, killing and torture of civilians by the Taliban in Panjshir, Andrab and Baghlan provinces have provoked widespread reactions on ground. Afghans across the world have started a social media campaign in reaction to the Taliban war crimes in the abovementioned provinces. They are publicizing images, videos and reports of torture and killings of civilians by the Taliban on social media using hashtags like #StopTajikGenocide and #StandWithPanjshir. However, these campaigns have not put a stop to the killings and torture of civilians and daily reports of the horrific crimes continue to pour in.

It should be noted that a large number people of the Hazara ethnic group of Afghanistan also joined the campaign and expressed sympathy with the Panjshiris. They said that they understood this oppression more than any other group in Afghanistan, because Hazaras have always been oppressed due to its affiliation with a certain ethnic group, and have been killed and wounded in their houses and on their farms like Panjshiris today.

    • Reacting to the killing of Panjshiri civilians, Arif Rahmani, a former member of the Afghan parliament, said that the massacre of civilians in Panjshir and Andarab showed the depth of hatred and barbaric behavior of the Taliban. He added that countries claiming to protect human rights should not remain indifferent to this genocide.
    • Former Afghan national security advisor, Rangin Dadfar Spanta said that “We must not remain silent against all these war crimes and systematic violations of human rights in Panjshir and Andarab and in every corner of Afghanistan.” He added that the Taliban are the enemy of freedom and Afghanistan will not remain a slaughterhouse of freedom.

The other side: The advent of the “Resistance Council” is another major development within the NRF. Nazari, the foreign relations hand of Ahmad Massoud announced the formation of the “Resistance Council” before launch of spring offensive of the NRF forces in Panjshir province and said that meetings had been held to establish the council and that the council would announce its existence soon. According to Nazari, the Resistance Council will be composed of all ethnic, religious and sectarian groups in Afghanistan, in stark contrast to the Taliban, which is made up of a specific ethnicity and ideology. Nazari added in his remarks that the Resistance Council will be the highest decision-making authority in the National Resistance Front.

Resistance building up from other groups in the region: According to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), In addition to the National Resistance Front, six other anti-Taliban militant groups have been emerged across Afghanistan.

One of these groups is the “Freedom Tigers of Turkestan”, also known as the “Wolves of Jawzjan”. On February 7, 2022, the group carried out an attack on the Taliban in the city of Sheberghan.

There is also a group called “Liberation Front of Afghanistan” in northern Afghanistan. The front has reportedly carried out attacks against the Taliban in the north and south of the country.

A movement called “Afghanistan’s Liberation Movement” led by the Pashtuns has emerged to fight the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan. The emergence of this groups has been described as a major development. Because the armed resistance against the Taliban was led mainly by non-Pashtuns. A number of battlefields that have been opened against the Taliban are not yet known.

It should be noted that the recently formed “Liberation Front of Afghanistan”, which is operating against the Taliban and has repeatedly announced its operations in Kabul, Paktia, Khost and Takhar, also targeted the Taliban aid convoy in Kuhdaman area of Kabul, heading towards Panjshir on May 7.

Between the lines: The Panshir Valley- is a valley where phoenixes rise from the ashes in the form of a revolution, time and again, when the nation’s basic identity is threatened. It was the main area of resistance when the Soviet forces invaded the country in the 1980s, as well as when the Taliban cropped up in the late 1990s when they first tasted power. Today in 2022 too, nearly nine months after the fall of Kabul, the Panjshir province has once again proved to be true to its self and upholds its resistance to counter the Taliban onslaught.

But this has not come without sacrifices. The region has seen great freedom fighters like late Ahmad Shah Massoud and today sees countless unnamed young individuals fighting for the country’s existence in a better world as the Taliban tries to revert to its draconian rules. Being the origin of all resistance and the last region to be taken over during most occupations, the civilians and residents of the region too are suffering. The constant opposition has irked the Taliban as it has not been able to quell and satisfy the people of the country with its regressive laws. Add to this mix, the frustration of the Taliban not being able to gain international recognition in 9 months coupled with internal rifts within the group and lack of funds to run the country. This has pushed the hardline Islamist group to the cliff’s edge. And the result is the murder, kidnapping and torture of civilians in order to get any information or just to proclaim their dominance.

With the spring offensive currently underway, the series of disappearances and killings in the region attributed to the Taliban has increased dramatically as the group sees it a way to intimidate people and hence, suppress the rebellion against them. However, this has not stopped the people from rising against the repressive regime. Mainly, the “National Resistance Front” led by Ahmad Massoud, son of late Ahmad Shah Massoud, is posing a tough fight to the Taliban in the region along with some splinter, localized groups who have picked up arms to fight for their freedom against the radical rule.

Zoom out: The situation in Afghanistan is changing every second. The spring is the season of battles in the country and this year, the battle is against the Taliban. According to reports, the anger and rage of the people against the Taliban’s atrocities is increasing day by day. On the other hand, Taliban recruiting Pashtun fighters from the south and east of Afghanistan and sending them to fight the Panjshir war has intensified the animosity among the people inside Afghanistan and destroyed the ground for unity among them in the future.

However, overall what matters most is that the widespread condemnations are not affecting the Taliban. The Taliban continue to govern within their “twisted” ideology of rules and seem to believe that intimidating and torturing people is the only way to suppress resistance and gain dominance. However, based on analysts, what the group forgets to note is that when freedom is under attack, anywhere, the caged lions rush to break free defeating anyone standing in its way and that is what is happening on ground in Panjshir and its people.

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