Afghanistan continues to dominate international news around the world. The resounding withdrawal of US diplomats from the Afghan capital, as well as all other foreign forces, has highlighted the West's abject failure in the Central Asian country, unable to predict the Taliban's takeover of Kabul in such a short period of time. Twenty years after the fall of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the fundamentalists are back in power with more territory under their control than they ever had during their previous rule from 1996-2001.
Only one area resists the Taliban offensive: the Panjshir Valley. This region is the opposition stronghold par excellence, as it could not be conquered during the previous Emirate either, and to this day continues to resist the Islamists' occupation. The province, located in the Hindu Kush mountains, is known for its natural defences. The area, as well as the resistance movement, is led by two well-known figures who have already become a symbol against the Taliban: Amrullah Saleh and Ahmad Massoud, who have called on Afghans to take up arms and confront the fundamentalists.
The Taliban, in the face of this strong resistance, announced on Sunday that the leaders of this province had approximately three hours to surrender their weapons, reported Al Arabiya channel. The fundamentalists have advanced that they are preparing an attack on the province, but a Taliban spokesman said that before carrying out the offensive, they are negotiating with Panjshir militants "to avoid war and bloodshed". "We have recaptured all areas in Baghlan that were previously controlled by militants," the spokesman added.
Ahmad Massoud, the Panjshir-based leader of the National Resistance Front, has emerged as the main opposition figure and has shown his determination to lead an armed confrontation with the Taliban if they fail to reach an agreement that satisfies both sides. The movement's spokesman, Ali Maysam Nazari, told AFP that the "National Resistance Front is ready for a long-term conflict", but still intends to negotiate with the Taliban for the establishment of an "inclusive government".
"The requirements of a peace agreement with the Taliban are decentralisation, a system that guarantees social justice, equality, rights and freedom for all," Nazari said. For his part, the leader par excellence of the resistance movement, Ahmad Massoud, during an interview with the Al Arabiya channel, said that "if the Taliban refuse dialogue, war is inevitable". Massoud insists on negotiations with the Taliban to avoid "bloodshed", and in another interview with Reuters he re-emphasised this idea: "We want the Taliban to realise that the only way forward is negotiations ... We don't want a war", he insisted, "We don't want a war". We don't want a war," Massoud insisted.
Likewise, Massoud, son of Ahmad Shah Massoud nicknamed the "lion of Panjshir", one of the main leaders of the Afghan anti-Soviet resistance in the 1980s, insisted that his supporters were prepared to fight if the fundamentalists tried to invade their province. "They want to defend, they want to fight, they want to resist any totalitarian regime," Massoud stressed. The Taliban, meanwhile, are continuing consultations on the formation of a new government, which they have said will be announced in the coming weeks.
On Saturday, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah Abdullah, president of the Higher Council for National Reconciliation, met with several members of the Taliban's political bureau. According to Abdullah's office, the two sides "exchanged views on current security and political developments, and an inclusive political settlement for the future of the country", but no further details of the meeting were provided.
Meanwhile, the evacuation of foreign personnel, as well as all those Afghans who have collaborated with US and NATO troops, continues at a frantic pace at Kabul International Airport. The situation at the airfield, one week after the Taliban takeover of Kabul, remains chaotic. At least 21 people have died trying to flee the country, according to NATO figures, as a result of gunfire and crushes in human stampedes.
Thousands of people continue to crowd the entrance to Kabul airport with the only hope of leaving the country. According to White House estimates, there are still between 10,000 and 15,000 Americans in Afghanistan who need to be evacuated, as well as between 50,000 and 65,000 Afghans and their families. These figures suggest that the total withdrawal of US troops, scheduled for 31 August, may have to be delayed, news that does not convince the Taliban and could provoke even more instability. After a week of intense work at the airfield, at least 28,000 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan, according to Al Jazeera, but thousands of Afghans are still waiting to leave Kabul.