The announcement came hours after National Resistance Front (NRF) chief Ahmad Massoud said he was ready to hold peace talks, as suggested by religious scholars, if Taliban fighters halted their offensive. Massoud’s post emerged after the Taliban had declared that they had entered Bazarak, the provincial capital.
“Panjshir, which was the last hideout of the escapee enemy, is captured,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told a crowded press conference in Kabul. “This victory has ended the war and paved the way for a peaceful and prosperous life in an independent Afghanistan,” Mujahid said, claiming that he was told that former vice-president Amrullah Saleh had escaped to Tajikistan. The Taliban assured the people of Panjshir, who are ethnically distinct from the Pashtun-dominated group, that there wold be no reprisals. “They are our brothers and would work together for a joint purpose and welfare of the country,” Mujahid said.
Some sources suggest that the Taliban might announce a government on September 11, the anniversary of the 2001 suicide attacks on targets in the US. There are also reports that Turkey, China, Russia, Iran, Pakistan and Qatar would be invited to attend the government formation function.
The spokesman called for recognition of Afghanistan, saying the country has the right to be recognised under a Taliban government. He urged the international community, on behalf of his group, to reopen their embassies in Kabul.
Mujahid also called upon military personnel who had served under the previous regime to join the new force. “The Afghan forces who were trained in the past 20 years will be asked to rejoin security departments alongside Taliban members,” he said.
The Taliban media team released several videos of their takeover of Panjshir, with the militants raising the group’s white flags with religious inscriptions over government buildings, including the governor’s house.
In the latest post on Twitter, commander Massoud said from an undisclosed location that he was still in the valley. “We are in Panjshir and our Resistance will continue,” he said on Twitter.
Sunday was a bad day for the NRF as several of its senior members were killed in the fight following unverified claims from both sides that they had inflicted heavy losses on each other. The resistance group later confirmed that its official spokesman, former journalist Fahim Dashty, Massoud’s cousin, General Abdul Wudood, and Saleh Muhammed Regastni, one of Massoud’s most trusted men in the fight against the Taliban, had been killed. Twitter posts by Afghans suggested that many more senior NRF commanders and fighter had lost their lives.
Panjshir was the last remaining area resisting the Taliban after they captured the country’s 33 provinces in a lightning campaign last month. A week after Kabul’s fall on August 15, the NRF, comprising personnel of the previous US-backed Afghan government and private militias, retook Andarab and two other adjoining districts in Baghlan, next to Panjshir. The Taliban had denounced that attack as a breach of their general amnesty for all members and politicians of the ousted government and had urged resistance leaders to surrender their arms and find a negotiated settlement to the security crisis.
Last week, the Taliban had launched a major offensive after the talks broke down. The armed group not only retook lost ground but also captured the last remaining province to complete its takeover of the entire country ahead of the formation of an interim government.
During his press conference Mujahid said all important decisions on future government have already been made and that they are now working on technical issues. He also said an interim government would be announced first, allowing for changes later.
Mujahid added that the government would be inclusive and that women’s rights would be respected under the framework of the Sharia, or Islamic law. He did not elaborate further on women’s role in government, if any.
Domestic flights across Afghanistan have resumed and Mujahid said that the group was waiting to see the resumption of international flights.
Accusing the US of damaging Kabul airport before exiting Afghanistan, the spokesman said that the governments of both Turkey and Qatar were helping to restore services at the facility.
Reuters, meanwhile, reported an organiser as having said that about 1,000 people, including Americans, have been stuck in northern Afghanistan for days awaiting clearance for their charter flights to leave, but that it could not independently verify the details of the account.
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