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31 Aug, 2021 15:50

7 Taliban fighters killed in clashes with Panjshir valley resistance, as challenges remain for new rulers after US exit

7 Taliban fighters killed in clashes with Panjshir valley resistance, as challenges remain for new rulers after US exit

The Taliban has lost at least seven fighters as the Islamist group, which now controls most of Afghanistan, clashed with resistance fighters from Panjshir valley amid efforts to consolidate power and form a government.

On Tuesday, representatives from the main anti-Taliban militia, the National Resistance Front (NRF), claimed that Taliban troops had been repelled after trying to enter the Panjshir valley, the only one of the 34 provinces which remains completely outside their control. The province’s most southwestern point sits just 50 miles north of Kabul. 

Fighting took place at the western entrance to the valley after the Taliban attempted to move against NRF positions Monday night, said Fahim Dashti, a spokesman for the militia loyal to local leader Ahmad Massoud. He added that eight Taliban fighters were killed, and the same number were injured, according to Reuters. The NRF only sustained two injuries. 

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Another member of the resistance movement, Bismillah Mohammadi, who served as a minister under ousted President Ashraf Ghani, put the number of Taliban dead at seven. “Last night, the Taliban attacked Panjshir, but were defeated with 7 dead and several wounded. Our people should not worry… This homeland will be liberated,” he tweeted, adding that the enemy had retreated with heavy casualties.

The Taliban has not commented on the losses as Afghanistan’s new rulers reportedly continue to seek a negotiated settlement while attempting to form a government in Kabul. 

Ali Nazary, head of foreign relations for the NRF, has said the group is not interested in the Taliban’s proposals as it falls far short of their demands. 

“The problem is that they are unwilling to make any concessions. And we’re unwilling to accept any type of political system that isn’t inclusive,” Nazary was quoted as saying by The Wall Street Journal.

Local leader Ahmad Massoud Massoud is the son of famed mujahideen commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, who held off Soviet advances four decades ago. The NRF claims to have a force of several thousand, with their number swelled by the remnants of the Afghan Army. Politicians in Panjshir claim their forces also have military hardware such as helicopters, the WSJ said.

The group remains committed to protecting the population of over 170,000 people, mostly from the Tajik ethnic group, who inhabit the valley. It is believed that neighboring Tajikistan is supporting Massoud’s forces, after military helicopters from Dushanbe were spotted in the valley.

Last week it was reported that local militias in neighboring Baghlan had evicted Taliban members from three districts, only for one to be recaptured soon after. The Taliban now claim to have recaptured all three. Amid ongoing local resistance, Taliban rulers also reportedly killed popular folk singer Fawad Andarabi in Baghlan province. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told the AP that the group would investigate the incident. 

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While the Taliban has sent significant forces to the area, it is clear that the Islamist group still faces considerable armed opposition. IS-K (Islamic State Khorasan), the splinter jihadist group which now operates in Afghanistan, claimed nearly 30 Taliban members were killed in a suicide bombing in Kabul last Thursday, an event that also highlights the breadth of opposition the Taliban faces. 

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, the Taliban celebrated the complete withdrawal of US troops from the country, firing ammunition into the air after the last American plane left Kabul airport.

Speaking later on Tuesday, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told a news conference that the Taliban would form a government in the coming days. The Islamist group have vowed to form an inclusive government, although many are doubtful that the promise will be fulfilled.

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