KABUL: Fighting continued between Taliban fighters and the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan in the Panjshir Valley on Saturday, both sides confirmed, despite earlier announcements that Afghanistan’s last major holdout against Taliban rule had fallen.
After sporadic fighting that started in mid-August, intense warfare in Panjshir began last week as US forces officially completed their withdrawal and two-decade presence in Afghanistan.
Taliban sources told the media on Friday night that they had seized the mountainous northern region following a multi-pronged attack that started a day earlier. But as the deafening noise of celebratory gunfire resounded all over Kabul around midnight, leaders of the Panjshir opposition denied the claim of their region’s fall.
NRFA leaders Ahmad Massoud and Amrullah Saleh, who until the Taliban takeover of Kabul and collapse of the government two weeks ago served as Afghanistan’s first vice president, took to social media to confirm that they were still in Panjshir.
The Taliban also confirmed fighting was continuing. Enamullah Samangani, a member of the group’s cultural commission, told Arab News that Taliban fighters were making territorial advances in the region.
“Still the war is on, our mujahideen are in Panjshir and they are gaining ground, in recent clashes the enemy has suffered massive casualties,” he said. “Soon we will have good news for the nation: Panjshir will be conquered and we will have a massive victory.”
However, sources within the NRFA — which consists of thousands of fighters from regional militias and Afghanistan’s former security forces — say that it was the Taliban who suffered losses as they entered the Khawak Pass — one of the two gateways the mountainous region of Panjshir has to the outside world.
An NRFA commander told Arab News Friday night’s offensive on the valley was by the Red Unit — Taliban special forces.
“Taliban Red Unit took charge of last night’s attack on Panjshir but they were defeated,” he said, citing heavy casualties among the Taliban and saying that 200 of their fighters had been captured.
Arab News could not independently verify the claims.
Panjshir Valley has reportedly been cut off by the Taliban, who have stopped movement to and from the region.