The Taliban now controls virtually all of Afghanistan, but about 70 miles north of Kabul in the Panjshir Valley, the son of a well-known mujahideen commander is trying to form a resistance force against the group.
Ahmad Massoud, the son of the late Ahmad Shah Massoud, wrote an op-ed published Wednesday in The Washington Post titled, “The mujahideen resistance to the Taliban begins now. But we need help.” Massoud said his fighting force has arms but warned they would “rapidly depleted unless our friends in the West can find a way to supply us without delay.”
Amrullah Saleh, who served as Ashraf Ghani’s vice president, has joined Massoud in Panjshir. After Ghani fled Afghanistan, Saleh declared himself the “caretaker president” of the country. “We have lost territory but not legitimacy,” Saleh told The New York Times. “I, as caretaker president, upholder of the Constitution, don’t see the Taliban emirate either as legitimate or national.”
For now, Saleh is calling for peace talks with the Taliban. “Should the Taliban be ready for meaningful discussions, we will welcome it,” he said. “If they insist on military conquest, then they better read Afghan history.” Saleh did not tell the Times how many fighters are in Panjshir, but some former Afghan officials estimated it was somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500.
Massoud seemed more ready for a fight than Saleh. “No matter what happens, my mujahideen fighters and I will defend Panjshir as the last bastion of Afghan freedom. Our morale is intact. We know from experience what awaits us. But we need more weapons, more ammunition and more supplies,” he wrote in the Post.
Massoud’s father fought against the Soviet Union in the 1980s and then against the Taliban in the 1990s. He was a leader of the Northern Alliance, a group of warlords the US-backed early on in its war in Afghanistan, although Massoud’s father was killed before the September 11th attacks.
The Afghan ambassador in Tajikistan appears to be backing Saleh and Massoud’s cause. “Only Panjshir resists, led by Vice President Amrullah Saleh,” said Ambassador Zahir Aghbar. “Panjshir stands strong against anyone who wants to enslave people.”