As the celebratory AK-47 gunfire faded and those killed by the falling rounds were cleaned off the streets, the Taliban faced an armed threat, and not U.S. forces. Although hard to believe, it seems some Afghans are not pleased with the re-establishment of the Taliban’s brutal, vicious regime. The opposition includes the NRF (National Resistance Front) — members of the former government resisting in the Panjshir Valley — and ISIS-K, which wants an even more barbarous stranglehold on the country’s population. Fox News correspondent Greg Palkot explained:
“When the Taliban walked into Kabul virtually unopposed as the US and Afghan allies were frantically trying to evacuate the country, the Taliban assured the US that they would protect Kabul and the airport and provide desperately needed stability to the beleaguered city. The ISIS attack directly undercut this message and leaves open the question whether or not the Taliban can exercise its authority and control over a resistive population with ISIS-K on the offensive and a budding resistance movement brewing out of Panjshir Valley.”
As reported in The Conversation, the center of the resistance is roughly 92 miles from Kabul, home “to a largely Tajik population” that has been the locus of resistance. For decades, the Panjshir has fought first the Soviet forces in the 1980s and the Taliban rule in the 1990s. When the United States was in Afghanistan, the Pushtun Taliban were unable to subjugate the Tajiks living in the Panjshir. Historically, this area, close to the Pakistan border, has been a tough piece of real estate to control. Nonetheless, recent reports from Kabul tell us that the new Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has taken over and defeated the resistance after one night of fighting. So it’s hard to determine the situation on the ground.
On Sept. 4, Reuters reported that “Taliban spokesman Bilal Karimi said the districts of Khinj and Unabah had been taken, giving Taliban forces control of four of the province’s seven districts. ‘The Mujahideen (Taliban fighters) are advancing toward the center (of the province),’ he said on Twitter.” The resistance forces are not without their messages. The NRF put out its report on resistance in the valley:
“But the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan, grouping forces loyal to local leader Ahmad Massoud, said it surrounded ‘thousands of terrorists’ in Khawak pass and the Taliban had abandoned vehicles and equipment in the Dashte Rewak area. Front spokesman Fahim Dashti [reportedly killed in fighting] added ‘heavy clashes’ were going on. In a Facebook post, Massoud insisted Panjshir ‘continues to stand strongly.’ Praising ‘our honorable sisters,’ he said demonstrations by women in the western city of Herat calling for their rights showed Afghans had not given up demands for justice and ‘they fear no threats.'”
Where the situation in the Panjshir Valley stands currently is anybody’s guess. According to ABC News, the Taliban claims “[t]housands of Taliban fighters charged into eight districts of Panjshir province overnight, according to witnesses from the area who spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared for their safety.” Regardless of these reports, it’s a struggle to believe that the Taliban forces could do in one night what the British in the 19th century could not do, what the Soviet occupation in the 1980s could not do, and what the Taliban for 20 years could not do. The formidable, nearly impassable terrain favors the defenders. What makes the Taliban’s claims even less credible is that Ahmad Massoud, the 32-year-old son of Afghan national hero Ahmad Shah Massoud, known locally as the “Afghan Napoleon,” leads the NRF. Massoud the younger is dynamic and demonstrates many of the charismatic traits of his father, and many consider him to be a good leader.
Regardless of who’s in charge in the Panjshir, the new emirate has its hands full and can count on a difficult time governing. A champion of the obvious and never far behind the headlines, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley told Fox News in an interview at Ramstein air base Germany, “My military estimate is … that the conditions are likely to develop of a civil war. I don’t know if the Taliban is going to [be] able to consolidate power and establish governance.” Fox News went on to quote Milley:
“‘I think there’s at least a very good probability of a broader civil war and that will then, in turn, lead to conditions that could, in fact, lead to a reconstitution of al-Qaeda or a growth of ISIS or other myriad of terrorist groups,’ Milley told the network. In late August, Milley, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and President Joe Biden received flack [sic] for not anticipating the Taliban — itself a designated terrorist group by several federal agencies — taking over the country in just 11 days.”
Governing a country is no easy task. The opportunities for failure are manifest and lead to disastrous consequences. Just ask Joe Biden and his national security leadership. The best the United States can do is stay away from the emirate financially and diplomatically. Let the chaos play out. The leaders in the State Department must resist every instinct to ply their diplomatic prowess, despite failing repeatedly. They won’t, of course. But they should.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.
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