Saturday, January 22, 2022

Taliban, opposition vie to control Panjshir

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Taliban and opposition forces were fighting on Saturday for control of the Panjshir valley north of Kabul, the last province in Afghanistan holding out against the group, according to reports.

Taliban sources had said on Friday the group had seized control of the valley, although the resistance denied it had fallen.

The Taliban have so far issued no public declaration that they had taken the valley, which resisted their rule when they were last in power in Kabul in 1996-2001.

A spokesman for the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan, which groups opposition forces loyal to local leader Ahmad Massoud, said Taliban forces reached the Darband heights on the border between Kapisa province and Panjshir but were pushed back.

“The defence of the stronghold of Afghanistan is unbreakable,” Fahim Dashty said in a tweet.

A Taliban source said fighting was continuing in Panjshir but the advance had been slowed by landmines placed on the road to the capital Bazarak and the provincial governor’s compound. “Demining and offensives are both going on at the same time,” the source said.

It was not immediately possible to get independent confirmation of events in Panjshir, which is walled off by mountains except for a narrow entrance and had held out against Soviet occupation as well as the previous Taliban government.

GOVERNMENT NEXT WEEK

The Taliban source also said the announcement of a new government would be pushed back to the next week.

Earlier, other Taliban sources said the group’s co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar would lead a new Afghan government set to be announced soon.

Baradar would be joined by Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, the son of late Taliban co-founder Mullah Omar, and Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai in senior positions, three sources said.

Meanwhile, there were some signs of normality creeping back in the Afghan capital.

Qatar’s ambassador to Afghanistan said a technical team was able to reopen Kabul airport to receive aid, according to Qatar’s Al Jazeera news channel, which also cited its correspondent as saying domestic flights had restarted.

The airport has been closed since the United States completed operations on Aug. 30 to evacuate diplomats, foreigners and Afghans deemed at risk from the Taliban. However, tens of thousands of people could not be flown out.

The Taliban’s main spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, also said that one of the main foreign exchange dealers in the capital had reopened.

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