Afghanistan disaster: Taliban say they’ve entered capital of Panjshir

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The Taliban announced on Sunday that their troops had fought their way into the provincial capital of the Panjshir Valley.

There was no immediate response from the Afghan National Resistance Front (NRFA), which brings together opposition forces. It had previously said that the Taliban’s “propaganda machine” was trying to spread distracting messages and was pushing Taliban forces back from another part of the valley.

Taliban spokesman Bilal Karimi said on Twitter that the police headquarters and district center of Rukhah, bordering the provincial capital Bazarak, had fallen and opposition forces had suffered numerous casualties, with large numbers of prisoners and looted vehicles, weapons and ammunition.

There was fighting in Bazarak, he said. It was unable to confirm the report, which was repeated on other Taliban Twitter accounts.

Earlier on Sunday, NRFA spokesman Fahim Dashti said the Parian district at the northeastern end of Panjshir, which the Taliban had previously captured, had been evacuated and up to 1,000 Taliban, including Pakistani and other foreigners, cordoned off and captured. That could not be independently confirmed.

“The resistance forces are ready to continue their defense against any form of aggression,” said Dashti.

On Saturday, the Italian aid organization Emergency announced that Taliban fighters had reached the trauma hospital it operates in the Anabah district in the Panjshir Valley.

Taliban officials said their forces had previously gained full control of Panjshir, but the fighting has been going on for days, with each side saying it caused large numbers of casualties.

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Ahmad Massoud, the chairman of the NRFA, has pledged to continue to resist the offensive and has asked for international support.

Panjshir, a rugged mountain valley north of Kabul that is still littered with the wreckage of destroyed Soviet tanks, has proven very difficult to traverse in the past. Under Massoud’s late father, Ahmad Shah Massoud, it resisted both the invading Soviet army and the previous Taliban government.

On Sunday, Massoud said hundreds of Taliban fighters had surrendered to the NRFA forces, including remnants of the Afghan regular army and special forces, as well as local militia fighters. It wasn’t clear if this was a separate claim.

The fighting in Panjshir is the most prominent example of resistance against the Taliban, whose troops invaded Kabul on August 15, when the West-backed government collapsed and President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.

Small individual protests for women’s rights or in defense of the green-red-black tricolor of Afghanistan also took place in various cities.

Massoud initially called for a negotiated solution with the Taliban and several attempts were made to meet, but eventually failed, with each side blaming the other for its failure.

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