The leader of a faction fighting the Taliban in the last stronghold of opposition forces in Afghanistan said on Sunday (5) that he is prepared to negotiate with the Islamic fundamentalist group amid intense fighting.
Ahmad Massoud, commander of the Afghan National Resistance Front, made the announcement via a Facebook post. The Front operates in the Panjshir valley, located about 100 km northeast of Kabul, and concentrates the remnants of the army of the government of Ashraf Ghani, who fell to extremists on 15 August.
“In principle, the Front agrees to solve the current problems, to put an immediate end to the fighting and to continue the negotiations”, said Massoud. “In order to achieve lasting peace, the Front is prepared to end the fighting under the condition that the Taliban also stop its attacks.”
Earlier, the Taliban said they had entered the provincial capital of Panjshir, the only enclave in the country that has not yet been taken over by extremists. Over the past week, the group even claimed victory over opponents in the region, information denied by the Front.
Surrounded by mountains, the terrain of the Panjshir Valley makes invasions difficult and it was the only part of Afghanistan that remained outside the control of the Taliban during the extremist group’s first regime, between 1996 and 2001. This time, however, the region is completely surrounded by fundamentalists.
On Saturday (4), General Mark Milley, Chief of Staff of the United States, warned of the risk of civil war in Afghanistan.
“My military assessment is that conditions are likely to develop into civil war. I don’t know if the Taliban will be able to consolidate power and establish governance,” Milley told Fox News, pointing to the risk of “al Qaeda reconstitution or the growth of the Islamic State or other myriad terrorist groups.”
The Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan 20 years after being ousted by a US-led coalition in the wake of 9/11. The Americans accused the group of harboring al Qaeda terrorists responsible for the attacks.
Faced with the prospect of the withdrawal of American troops from the country, concluded last Monday (30), Taliban fighters conducted a massive offensive in the country, advancing on various provincial capitals until retaking Kabul.