As the assembly of its government in Afghanistan enters its final phase, the Taliban gave up the conversation and renewed the offensive against the last pocket of resistance against them, the Panjshir Valley.
Located about 100 km northeast of Kabul, the valley concentrates the remnants of the army of the government of Ashraf Ghani, which fell to the Islamic fundamentalist group on 15 August.
In recent weeks, the Taliban has tried to convince the rebels to surrender, promising peaceful negotiations. Mindful of the group’s history of violence with tribes in that region, which never surrendered to the Taliban when they ruled from 1996 to 2001, the Afghan National Resistance Front declined.
“We started operations [nesta quinta, 2] after negotiations with the local armed group failed,” said the main Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid.
As is customary in such cases, under low media scrutiny, both sides claim there have been heavy casualties among enemy forces. The Taliban says they managed to enter the valley through one of its mountain passes, which the Front denies.
The Panjshir group is led by former Vice President Amrullah Saleh and Ahmad Massoud, son of the icon of resistance against the first Taliban government, Commander Ahmad Shah Massoud.
“Lion of Panjshir”, Massoud senior was killed in a suicide bombing in which false reporters hid explosives on a TV camera, two days before 9/11, which sealed the fate of his rivals.
For supporting Al Qaeda, the perpetrator of the terrorist attacks in the US, the Taliban was bombed by the US, starting the longest American war — ended by the Joe Biden administration with the chaotic retreat ended on Monday (30).
The valley might have fallen after Massoud’s death, but the wheels of history kicked in and changed everything: on November 13, 2001, Northern Alliance forces, the then rebels, entered Kabul supported by the attacks Westerners.
Massoud Filho wants to repeat the story, but the objective conditions seem more complex. Unlike what happened in the 1990s, when it struggled with the northern tribes of the country, this time the Taliban began their final conquest right there — with the obvious exception of Panjshir.
Meanwhile, the group back in power finishes setting up the government. Different members of the faction claim that the official announcement would be on Thursday or Friday (3), after the traditional prayers on that day.
The main doubt lies in the presence of leaders of previous governments, such as former president Hamid Karzai and former chancellor Abdullah Abdullah, in the composition of the new administration.
It is expected to be a mix of the shura, the tribal council that was the basis of the first and bankrupt Taliban government, and the structure of ministries bequeathed by the Western occupation. The supreme leader will be Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, a presumed 60-year-old, who is never seen in public.
The equivalent of a president, in turn, is likely to be Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who spent years in prison in Pakistan and who headed the Taliban negotiating delegation in Doha, having forged the peace agreement with former US President Donald Trump in 2020 .
Several positions are already filled interim, but only by men linked to the Taliban, which led to a courageous protest by women in Herat, a city in the west of the country. A few dozen of them took to the streets to ask the Taliban to guarantee the inclusion of women in government and public administration positions.
The radical Islamic faction was known for its brutality in dealing with women in the 1990s, virtually isolating them from public life—only a few health professionals could see other women, and there were no schools for girls.
This follows from a literal view of Islamic law, sharia. Now, the Taliban are trying to be moderate and say they will accept women everywhere and not force them again to cover themselves with burkas, the traditional full-length tunic of the group’s ethnic group, the Pashtun.
The point is that, at the same time, it claims that this freedom will take place under sharia precepts. “We want the Taliban to agree to talk to us,” Basira Taheri, one of the organizers of the act, told AFP news agency.
In Kabul, there are some signs of normalization of life underway. Qatar technicians who are working to reopen the capital’s airport, scene of the desperate final evacuation of more than 122,000 people, say domestic flights will be cleared this Friday.
International operations, essential for the promised evacuation of civilians who were left behind and are up-to-date with documentation, do not yet have a date to resume. The Dutch and Turkish governments got in touch with the Qataris, negotiating their possible participation in keeping the airport open.
In addition, the American money transfer giant Western Union has reopened its points of service in Kabul, which have been closed since the 18th. Haqqani.
There are several other problems. United Nations food stocks, which reach about a third of the 37 million Afghans, run out by the end of this month. Governments such as China and Russia, rivals to the US, are showing signs that they can recognize the Taliban in power and facilitate the inflow of foreign aid.