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A gang of Afghan resistance fighters enclosed in the country’s harsh Panjshir province northeast of Kabul has repulsed repeated attacks by Taliban fighters in recent days, a representative of the group told NPR.
Talk to NPRs All things Considered On Friday, Ali Nazary, head of the National Resistance Front’s Foreign Relations Department, who is currently in the United States, also denied reports that the Taliban have taken control of the province – the last great territory between the Islamist militia and total control of Afghanistan – rumors call it “propaganda”.
The Panjshir Valley “has not been breached,” he told host Audie Cornish. “The Taliban face fierce opposition.”
“The Taliban’s propaganda machine is trying to divert attention, trying to spread propaganda, weaken morale in Kabul and elsewhere,” said Nazary, who says he has been in close contact with NRF officials in Panjshir.
Nazar’s remarks came at a time when both the Taliban and the NRF were claiming victories and denying defeats. In stark contrast to Nazari’s comments, there were reports of “festive shots” in Kabul, the Afghan capital, over the Taliban’s alleged victory in Panjshir.
The NRF, which says it has about 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 mujahedeen commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was assassinated in the days leading up to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Elder Massoud famously helped fight both the Soviet Army and the Taliban to a quiet from his stronghold in the Panjshir Valley, located in the Hindu Kush Mountains.
Joining Massoud’s opposition is Amrullah Saleh, who was vice president under President Ashraf Ghani, who fled the country when the Taliban closed into the capital last month. In a video posted on social media, Saleh also denied rumors of a defeat.
Contrary to reports that he and Massoud had also fled, the former vice president told his supporters that he is in the Panjshir Valley and that the NRF has “held the ground” and will continue to fight.
Nazary said the Taliban launched its latest-and-largest offensive in hopes of conquering Panjshir before announcing a new government.
“Fortunately, our forces fought them bravely. They repulsed all their attacks,” he said, adding that the Taliban had even withdrawn from some areas.
Panjshir has been described as a natural fortress against attackers, but it is not clear how long the resistance can withstand a larger and better equipped Taliban force.
Nazary said elements from al-Qaeda have joined the Taliban and that the opposition is fighting them “all alone”.
“The whole world has left us,” he said. “We are not receiving any kind of assistance, whatever it may be. And we are fighting al-Qaeda and international terrorism at the moment. And everyone is ignoring this.”
While continuing to fight, however, Nazary said the opposition maintains “lines of communication” with the Taliban and has so far unsuccessfully called for something to be said in the new government.
“The Taliban movement does not represent the vast majority of Afghanistan’s population. The vast majority are against them,” he said. “In order for them to form an inclusive government, they must include all ethnic groups, all political forces, all political parties from across the country, both women and men.”
“Unfortunately, right now in their government that they are forming, they are ignoring the 50 percent of society who are women,” Nazary said.
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