Afghanistan: Resistance in the Pandjir Valley against Taliban

Status: 04.09.2021 12:16 p.m.

Rebels have been fighting the Taliban in the Punjir Valley for days. Its leader is Ahmad Massoud, the son of a famous resistance fighter. But what does he want and what are his chances of success?

By Silke Diettrich, ARD Studio New Delhi

So far it has never been possible to conquer the Pandjir Valley. A stronghold of resistance: against the Soviets in the 1980s, against the Taliban in the late 1990s – and even now, after the Islamists came to power again, the symbolic valley does not want to surrender to the Taliban.

The resistance was led by Ahmad Sha Massoud. Now his son has holed up in the valley. According to his own statements, he has more than 6,000 fighters under him, including former Afghan soldiers and government officials. Shortly before the Taliban came to power, Massoud gave an interview to the Atlantic Council think tank. In it he says that the Taliban are even more extremist than before and want to rule the multi-ethnic state alone and centrally. “That’s why we resist and fight, because we want a government so that everyone can live in peace.”

Massoud wants power-sharing

Ahmad Massoud is Tajik, the Taliban are Pashtuns. Ethnic conflicts in Afghanistan have already led to civil wars and are one of the reasons why the country has not been able to calm down for decades. In negotiations with the Taliban, Massoud is said to have demanded power participation, first 50, then 30 percent. That seems out of the question for the Taliban.

Massoud has been campaigning against the Taliban for years.


Father warned of 9/11

They have encircled the historic Pandjir Valley and are now trying to break the resistance by force. Ahmad Massoud, on the other hand, hopes, just like his father once did, to be able to counter this.

During the interview there are framed photos of his father, who had almost exactly the same name: Ahmad Sha Massoud. To this day a national hero in Afghanistan. “The Lion of the Pandjir Valley” is what he is often called. Photos of him hang as huge posters at the airport, on car windows or street lamps, Afghannins and Afghans sing songs about Massoud, who was murdered by al-Qaeda fighters 20 years ago in September 2001.

Two days after the fact, the planes crashed into the towers of the World Trade Center. Massoud had warned of Osama bin Laden’s terrorist plans. Shortly after his assassination, the United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan, when the Taliban had started to drive out of the Punjir Valley.

Fight in Pandjir Valley

The radical Islamic Taliban and their opponents have been fighting fierce battles in the Pandjir Valley northeast of Kabul for days. Taliban spokesman Sabihulla Mujahid said on Thursday that the operation in Pandjir had started after negotiations with the “armed local group” there failed. A spokesman for the resistance movement confirmed that the troops under Ahmad Massoud were involved in “heavy” fighting with the Islamists.

The Taliban then announced on Friday that they had conquered the Punjir Valley. “We are in control of all of Afghanistan,” said a military leader from the extremist group. Former Vice President Amrullah Saleh, who is one of the leaders of the Taliban opponents, denied the reports. He admitted that he and his supporters were in a difficult position. “But the resistance continues and will continue.” An AFP informant who lives in the valley also denied a conquest to the news agency by telephone.

Son does not have the radiance of his father

This story will not repeat itself and it is more than questionable whether the son of the Afghan national hero can actually hold his position, says Thomas Ruttig. He has been observing the country for many years, lived there himself under the Taliban and works for the Afghan Analysts Network think tank: “I don’t think he can match his father.” He has been active for two or three years and has tried to set up an opposition movement against then President Ghani. “But not too many have gathered around him, and the older leaders of his own party – the question of age always plays a major role in Afghanistan – have not joined him either.”

Minorities could revolt against the Taliban

The Taliban want to introduce their new government soon. It remains to be seen how many people from different ethnic groups will take part. That could cause explosives, says Ruttig.

A renewed civil war, starting from the Pandschir Valley, is not yet ruled out: “If the people manage to expand their struggle and continue to find supporters – which could be the case if the Taliban against the large minorities of the Tajiks, Hazara and Uzbeks act repressively – then that could lead to civil war again. That would be another ethnic polarization that is very dangerous for the country. “

“We will never give up”

The negotiations between the Taliban and Massoud have so far not led to an agreement. There has been fighting for more than five days. The son of the national hero spoke up on Facebook today: “We will never give up the fight for God, freedom and justice.” He is not yet defeated.

Resistance to the Taliban in the Pandjir Valley

Silke Diettrich, ARD New Delhi, September 4, 2021 11:06 am

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