Fri. Nov 5th, 2021
Budding Resistance to the Taliban Faces Long Odds


The very first indicators of armed resistance to the Taliban have come from a narrow valley with a historical past of repelling invaders.

Just days just after the Taliban swept into the capital and toppled the government in a lightning offensive, a group of former mujahedeen fighters and Afghan commandos mentioned they had regrouped and begun a war of resistance in the final location in Afghanistan not underneath Taliban manage.

The guy major them is Ahmad Massoud, the 32-yr-previous son of the storied mujahedeen commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, stepping into his father’s footsteps twenty many years just after his death to select up his dogged battle towards the Taliban.

But their struggle faces extended odds. Strategic as their redoubt is, the resistance fighters are lower off and surrounded by the Taliban, have supplies that will quickly start off dwindling, and have no noticeable outdoors assistance.

For now the resistance has just two assets: the Panjshir Valley, 70 miles north of Kabul, which has a historical past of repelling invaders, and the legendary Massoud identify.

Spokesmen for Ahmad Massoud insist he has previously attracted 1000’s of soldiers to the valley, like remnants of the Afghan Army’s particular forces and some of his father’s seasoned guerrilla commanders, as effectively as activists and other people who reject the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate.

The spokesmen, some of whom have been with him in the Panjshir Valley and some who have been outdoors the nation drumming up assistance, mentioned that Mr. Massoud has stocks of weapons and matériel, like American helicopters, but desires additional.

‘‘We’re waiting for some possibility, some assistance,” mentioned Hamid Saifi, a former colonel in the Afghan Nationwide Army, and now a commander in Mr. Massoud’s resistance, who was reached in the Panjshir Valley by phone on Sunday. “Maybe some nations will be prepared for this wonderful function. So far, all nations we talked to are quiet. America, Europe, China, Russia, all of them are quiet.’’

In an view post in The Washington Publish final week, Mr. Massoud appealed for the United States, Britain and France to assistance his uprising by sending arms, placing President Biden in a extremely tricky place.

Backing the Taliban’s enemies could infuriate them, worsen what is previously a chaotic American exit from Afghanistan and incite the Taliban to break the primary guarantee they manufactured if American forces withdrew — to sever ties with terrorists.

But refusing to support Mr. Massoud carries its personal hazards, like international criticism that Mr. Biden turned his back on Afghan resistance fighters struggling to retake their nation from an extremist group with a extended historical past of repression and brutality.

The elder Massoud developed his formidable track record by holding out towards repeated Soviet offensives in the 1980s, employing his wits and the large mountain ranges of the Hindu Kush to survive. He inflicted devastating ambushes on Russian provide convoys, earning a grudging respect from many Soviet generals amongst his opponents.

He spearheaded the mujahedeen assault on Kabul that toppled the Communist government in 1992, and was appointed minister of defense. But he never ever appreciated complete-throated assistance from Washington or from neighboring Pakistan, bloodied his hands in the devastating civil conflict in Kabul, and withdrew to his stronghold in the Panjshir Valley when the Taliban rose to energy and seized the capital in 1996.

He held out towards the Taliban regime for 5 many years, rallying a united opposition towards a motion that he noticed as totalitarian and alien to Afghan traditions in its dogmatic fundamentalism, even as he steadily misplaced territory.

He warned the West about the risk of terrorism from Al Qaeda. Beneath his leadership, the Panjshir Valley grew to become a type of forward listening submit for Western intelligence, a free of charge enclave of the minority Tajik ethnicity in a nation dominated by the Pashtun regime of the Taliban, and a continual thorn in its side.

His son is obviously hoping to perform the exact same position as his father, who was assassinated by Al Qaeda two days in advance of Sept. eleven, 2001 as a type of present to the Taliban regime that hosted it.

But there are essential distinctions among then and now. The father had provide lines that ran across the border to Tajikistan, permitting the resistance to replenish itself more than a extended time period.

Considering the fact that then, the Taliban have discovered their lessons effectively from previous military conflicts, and they manufactured certain to lower off Afghanistan’s borders and isolate the Panjshir Valley in advance of moving on Kabul.

The younger Mr. Massoud also has tiny military knowledge, although he was educated at the Royal Military School at Sandhurst in Britain and King’s School, London, and earned a degree in war research in advance of returning to Afghanistan in 2016. This weekend, he sounded a defiant note.

“We confronted the Soviet Union, and we will be in a position to confront the Taliban,” Mr. Massoud advised the Dubai-based mostly Al Arabiya tv channel Sunday. His father held off 9 Soviet offensives, and he insists he is up to the legacy.

He left in haste for the Panjshir Valley on Aug. 15 in a military helicopter just after the Taliban broke by means of government defenses on the western side of Kabul and President Ashraf Ghani fled the nation.

Vice President Amrullah Saleh left for the valley at the exact same time, vowing to battle rather than sit underneath the exact same roof as the Taliban. He was attacked twice on the street but manufactured it by means of, mentioned Mohammad Zahir Aghbar, who has been serving as Afghanistan’s ambassador to Tajikistan, in an interview final week.

It is feasible that Mr. Massoud and his followers have taken a difficult stance to obtain leverage in the bargaining more than any new government.

“We favor peace,” mentioned Fahim Dashty, Mr. Massoud’s chief of personnel, in a cell phone message. “We are inclined to enter negotiations to attain peace, but not only peace. We want an inclusive government in Afghanistan, which could signify all unique ethnic groups of Afghanistan, which will make sure the rights of people today of Afghanistan, human rights, women’s rights, and which will make sure social justice in Afghanistan.”

But conflict was previously underway. Mr. Massoud’s supporters mentioned their forces had attacked a Taliban convoy in Andarab, on the north side of the Salang tunnel, inflicting hefty casualties, downing a bridge and cutting a essential highway that backlinks the capital to the north.

The Taliban announced they have been sending forces to subdue the province in a statement on Twitter: “Hundreds of the Islamic Emirate’s mujahedeen are heading to the Panjshir to carry it underneath manage, just after the neighborhood authorities refused to hand it more than peacefully.”

The resistance forces have been on large alert Monday as they ready for Taliban retaliation, Mr. Dashty mentioned.

An Agence France-Presse correspondent on Tuesday reported seeing “machine gun nests, mortars and surveillance posts fortified with sandbags” set up by the Nationwide Resistance Front to defend its positions in the Panjshir Valley.

Former senior officials in the not too long ago deposed Afghan government have been hesitant about the movement’s probabilities. “I do not assume that resistance will final extended with out worldwide help,” mentioned a former top rated official. “I assume the Taliban will crush it in the coming months,” he mentioned, speaking anonymously for the reason that of the sensitivity of the problem.

“He is in a additional tricky problem than his father,” mentioned Rahmatullah Nabil, a former head of the Nationwide Directorate of Safety and vehement opponent of the Taliban, referring to the younger Mr. Massoud. Not only did the son have much less knowledge than his father had when he resisted the Taliban, but he lacked outdoors assistance, he mentioned. The elder Massoud had obtained restricted assistance from regional neighbors like Russia, India, Iran and Tajikistan.

“The nations who supported his father, they are not interested,” Mr. Nabil mentioned. Nonetheless, he mentioned, Mr. Massoud could most likely pull by means of.

Opponents of the Taliban have been not all on the exact same web page nonetheless, as well.

“We’re modifying to a guerrilla war,” mentioned Colonel Saifi of the former Afghan army who is now with Mr. Massoud. “We do not need to have 1000’s and 1000’s of troops to battle this war. In this war we need to have twenty guys, they make ambushes. We will not battle like a government army, we’ll battle like the mujahedeen fought the Russians.”

Matin Bek, an ex-member of the government’s negotiating staff with the Taliban, recommended that some opponents have been waiting to seeing how the Taliban would govern, but that the resistance could inspire a rallying of the opposition. “If they battle the Taliban, it could develop into a hope for the complete nation,’’ he mentioned.

But for now, “We do not know the fate of this resistance,” he additional. “Will they resist, or will they negotiate? I do not know who is backing them.”

The most prominent ex-official to get refuge in the Panjshir Valley is Mr. Saleh, a former head of the Nationwide Directorate of Safety and himself a former associate of the elder Massoud. Final week he proclaimed himself Afghanistan’s reputable president, dismissing the Taliban’s seizure of energy.

“The Taliban haven’t proven any readiness to engage in meaningful negotiations,” Mr. Saleh wrote in a text message. “They want allegiance, surrender or subordination. Our provide is extremely uncomplicated. Individuals have to have a say in any selection figuring out the character of the state.”

Carlotta Gall reported from Istanbul, and Adam Nossiter from Paris. Reporting was contributed by Jim Huylebroek in Kabul, Afghanistan and Andrew Kramer in Moscow.

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