The snake-shaped curving and narrow roadways with harsh rocky mountains on one side and the Panjshir River on the other tells how tough it was for the Taliban to take the control of Bazarak, the capital of the Panjshir province of Afghanistan.
Dozens of rusted tanks in Jablus Siraj in the Parwan province and in Bazarak left by the former Soviet Union during a decade-long fight against the Mujahideen of Panjshir illustrates how difficult it is to capture the valley.
But the Taliban did it for the first time on Monday, when they stormed from all sides to Bazarak, a small town about the size of one of Kabul neighborhood, but the capital of Panjsher province.
A broken tank and several burned and damaged Humvees indicate the heavy artillery fighting was intense between the Taliban and the Panjshir resistance group led by Ahmad Massoud, son of Mujahideen leader Ahmad Shah Massoud, Amrullah Saleh, and Bismillah Mohammadi, respectively, the first vice president and defense minister in Ashraf Ghani’s government.
Before approaching Bazarak, a person was being buried, and several shops and houses with broken windowpanes showed evidence of public property damage.
Panjshir is the valley where Mujahideen commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, titled “Lion of Panjshir” by locals, fought the former Soviet Union army from 1979 to 1989 and resisted to let the Taliban to take control of the valley during their rule from 1996 to 2001.
Other northern provinces’ commanders, including those in Jawazjan, Faryab, Takhar, and Badakhshan benefited from the valley commander’s support in fighting the Taliban.
The Panjshir has fallen for the first time, but not to foreign forces, but to the Taliban.
Panjshir resistance fighters escape to mountains
With a long-distance walkie talkie in one hand and an AK-47 on his shoulder, a commander said, “Some of the fighters entered midnight and some on Monday morning.”
The commander, who did not want to be identified, told Anadolu Agency in Bazarak that all of the Panjshir resistance group fighters, what he called them “rebels,” escaped to the mountains, and Taliban fighters are pursuing them.
Only one Taliban was killed, but they have killed many from the resistance group, according to the commander, who did not specify how many people were dead. He denied, however, that the resistance group inflicted considerable damage on the Taliban during a five-day battle with heavy weaponry that began just after the US withdrew its troops from Afghanistan after 20 years of operations.
During a conversation with Anadolu Agency, the sound of gunfire on the hills signaled that the situation was far from ended.
“We’re trying to persuade them to surrender because our leadership has declared general amnesty,” he continued, warning them that “if they don’t, things will get difficult for them.”
Resistance leader message
The leader of the anti-Taliban resistance group, Ahmad Massoud, has called for a “national uprising” against the Taliban.
He declared in an audio message on Monday afternoon that the resistance against the Taliban will continue, and that no force could defeat the people’s will, according to him.
He said that the resistance group in Panjshir has halted fighting at the request of religious scholars, blaming the Taliban for ignoring them and continuing their attacks.
Some members of Massoud’s family were also killed in a clash with the Taliban in Panjshir on Sunday, Massoud said.
Residents leave Panjshir
People were seen leaving Bazarak in vehicles, some waiting for transportation, and some even walking with their children.
Markets were shuttered and houses were empty, indicating that ordinary people were permitted to flee the battleground. Some shops, however, were opened in two other districts.
Taliban leaders told Anadolu Agency that they will try to persuade the resistance group to return to their homes and start their normal lives.
For several days, there have been no food supply, electricity, telephone, or internet services.
However, it is currently tough to live without water, according to a Taliban fighter named Hizbullah, who asked his co-fighters to fetch water from the Panjshir River as quickly as possible.
He claimed that before departing the capital city, the resistance group destroyed the whole water supply system, as well as the computer systems in the administrative offices, and left nothing behind.
According to Hizbullah, they tore down important official documents and burned some of them.
Taliban seize weapons
Two helicopters were stationed at the city’s sports center and a large number of armored vehicles were seen speeding around the road. Local media used a video released by the Taliban showing a huge number of weapons seized by them from the resistance group.
In the video, 30 resistance group commanders and 200 men were shown surrendering to the Taliban. A Taliban fighter in the video reiterated his supreme leader’s amnesty and stated that they are free to live normal lives.
The Taliban have assured the people of Panjshir that they will live in peace from now on, calling them their brothers and promising that the people of Panjshir will not be discriminated against in any way.
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