While the rest of the country is in Taliban hands, a province 150 kilometres north of Kabul has become the last pocket of resistance against the insurgents. The Panjshir Valley, which was already an anti-Taliban stronghold between 1996 and 2001 and could not be controlled by the Soviets decades earlier either, is resisting the Islamists' occupation. "We are ready to resist the Taliban for the second time," Abdul Rahman, head of the Department of Economy, told EFE.
The region, located in the Hindu Kush mountains, is known for its natural defences. The area, like the resistance movement, is led by two well-known figures who have already become a symbol against the Taliban: Amrullah Saleh and Ahmad Massoud.
Amurallah Saleh has proclaimed himself president of the country after the departure of Ashraf Ghani. He has also supported protests in cities such as Jalalabad and Asadabad after the Taliban replaced the Afghan tricolour with the Emirate's white flag. Saleh has political experience, having served as interior minister from 2018 to 2019. Prior to that, in 2004, he was head of the Afghan intelligence service.
Like so many other political figures, Saleh has suffered several assassination attempts, where some of his family members or friends were injured. "If I am killed, I tell my family and friends not to complain because I killed many of them with pride. So I am a very legitimate target," he told a US television station in 2009.
Saleh, an ethnic Tajik, was part of the "Northern Alliance" that fought against the Taliban regime during 1996 and 2001. During those years he fought alongside Ahmad Shah Massoud, known as the "Lion of Panjshir", a famous fighter and strategist in the region. Massoud also became a key figure in the resistance against the Soviet invasion between 1979 and 1989. He later served as defence minister under Burhanuddin Rabbani. Massoud was killed in an Al-Qaeda suicide attack just days before the 9/11 attacks.
"I will never betray the soul and legacy of my hero Ahmad Shah Massoud, the commander, the legend and the guide," Saleh declared. "I will never be under the same roof as the Taliban. Never," the self-proclaimed president added.
Saleh is supported by the son of the Lion of Panjshir, Ahmad Massoud, 32. Massoud was thrust into the anti-Taliban resistance spotlight after a video was released following the insurgents' takeover of Kabul. In the recording, Massoud emphasises the defence of "democracy, human rights, women's rights and many other values that we have not been able to achieve during the past two decades". The son of Ahmad Shah Massoud assured that he would stay in Panjshir and pledged to fortify the region. "We are the first line of defence. We will protect the whole of Europe and the whole region. The Afghans are fighting not only for themselves, but for everyone," he added.
Massoud has called for US arms support to confront the Taliban. "The United States can still be a great arsenal of democracy," he said in an opinion column in The Washington Post. "I write from the Panjshir Valley today, ready to follow in my father's footsteps, with mujahideen fighters ready to fight the Taliban again," he announces. In the article, he also reports that "under Taliban control, Afghanistan will undoubtedly become the epicentre of radical Islamist terrorism". "Anti-democracy plots will once again be hatched here," he warns.
This is not the first time Massoud has warned about the Taliban's brutality and lack of respect for human rights. He told the British Sky News that "they have not changed, nor do they want peace or the formation of a just and moderate government". The Taliban, since coming to power in Kabul, have been more "moderate" in the eyes of the international community. They have promised a "general amnesty" and assured that women will have rights "within the framework of Islamic law", even allowing a woman to interview a Taliban member. However, many women and men do not believe the Taliban's promises. Translators or other citizens who have collaborated with NATO troops say they are hiding from the insurgents because of the reprisals they may face for working with foreigners.
The son of the famous fighter went on to call for international support to resist the Taliban: "I have addressed all of you, in France, Europe, America, the Arab world and elsewhere. Will you, dear friends of freedom, come to help us once again as in the past? We have confidence in you, even though the treachery of some has been very great".
Massoud is referring to several countries that have already recognised the Taliban victory and have already announced that they will start talks with them, such as China. The European Union, for its part, has also recognised that the Taliban "have won the war", as stated by Josep Borrell, High Representative for Foreign Affairs. Borrell therefore considers that "we must talk to the Taliban". Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, has already acknowledged the existence of this resistance movement. For Lavrov, this faction makes a national dialogue involving all political formations and social movements essential.
During the 2001 US invasion to overthrow the Taliban regime, the US collaborated with the Northern Alliance. It even militarily trained warlords such as Abdul Rachid Dostum, who has also been an important figure in recent weeks in defending the northern region of Mazar-i-Sharif until it fell to the Taliban.
However, it seems that history will not repeat itself and the Afghan resistance movement will have to fight alone. Joe Biden, like other Western leaders, has no intention of opposing the new government. Biden, in particular, asserted that Afghans must "fight for themselves".