DUSHANBE, Tajikistan – Two prominent Afghans who do not recognize the Taliban as the rightful leaders of Afghanistan have begun to challenge the militants from a small but strategic area that the Taliban does not control, according to an Afghan diplomat and statements from the leaders.
While it’s unclear how many followers are with them or how many weapons they have, both men – the vice president in the overthrown government and the son of a famous mujahideen leader – command respect from many Afghans.
According to diplomat Mohammad Zahir Aghbar, who has served as Afghan ambassador to Tajikistan, their demands are currently relatively limited. If the Taliban want to avoid a fight and take control of the area they are in – the hard-to-penetrate Panjshir Valley – they will have to form an inclusive government rather than try to lead alone.
The emergence of even a small area of organized resistance to the Taliban raised the possibility of more fighting in the war-ravaged country and, at the very least, a future threat of an uprising against the former insurgents who now control Kabul.
The vice president of the deposed government, Amrullah Saleh, claimed in a… after on Twitter to take the title of president under the US-brokered 2004 constitution for staying on Afghan territory while the president-elect, Ashraf Ghani, has fled.
The other prominent supporter in the valley is Ahmad Massoud, son of the mujahideen leader Ahmad Shah Massoud, who successfully defended the Panjshir Valley in years of struggle against the Soviet Union in the 1980s and against the Taliban in the 1980s. Ninety.
Ahmad Shah Massoud’s stature in the anti-Taliban resistance in the 1990s was such that Al-Qaeda killed him in a bomb attack two days before the September 11, 2001 attacks — an assassination intended to aid Al-Qaeda’s hosts in Afghanistan before the strikes in the United States.
The son, Ahmad Massoud, posted a video to Facebook on Wednesday in which he says he is in the Panjshir Valley and has no intention of leaving Afghanistan. “You can see that I am in Panjshir and with our people. God willing, I’m staying here with our people,” Mr Massoud said in the video.
“People are ready to fight,” Mr Aghbar, the ambassador and a longtime ally of the Massoud family, said in an interview in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. The Panjshir Valley is home to ethnic Tajiks who have long resisted the Taliban.
Mr Aghbar, who said he spoke to both guards, said that although Taliban units attacked Mr Saleh’s convoy as it traveled from Kabul to the valley on Sunday, the Taliban did not attempt to enter the gorge. , a naturally defensible place. The valley is located about 90 miles north of Kabul.
“If the Taliban in Doha and Pakistan agree to a settlement that accepts what the world demands and meets the needs of the Afghan people, we will have peace and stability,” Mr Aghbar said.
As Kabul’s defenses crumbled on Sunday, Mr. Aghbar, he spoke to Mr. Saleh and learned of the plan to hold out in the Panjshir Valley. ‘I asked, ‘What’s your decision?’ He said, ‘I will fight.’”
It is far from clear what help could come from outside and whether Mr Saleh’s claim to continuity of government under the Afghan constitution will gain traction. The Afghan embassy in Tajikistan joins the case; in the building’s carpeted conference rooms, on a dusty, taxi-clogged street in Dushanbe, the photos of Mr. Ghani and Mr. Saleh’s came pouring down.
Farnaz Fassihi contributed reporting from New York.