Will the opposition to the Taliban in Panchir hold out?

Twenty years after being ousted from power, the Taliban seized Kabul on August 15, and now control almost all of Afghanistan. But only one region seems to have resisted this assault: the Panchir valley.

It is in this area, difficult to access, that resistance to the Taliban is organized. Where is it located? Why has the resistance made it its stronghold? Is it likely to succeed?

Why is the Panchir a historic stronghold of rebellion?

The Panchir is one of the 34 valleys that make up Afghanistan. Steep, mountainous and very difficult to access, this area is located about a hundred kilometers northeast of Kabul, in the Hindu Kush massif.

Considered a historic bastion of rebellion, this valley never fell to the Taliban during the civil war of the 1990s, before the latter were ousted from power by the Americans, or a decade earlier, during the 1990s. occupation of the country by the Soviets.

“When the Taliban took Kabul in 1996, Panshir was one of the few areas that was able to resist the Taliban. In the Afghan political geography, it is an extremely important place ”, explained Gilles Dorronsoro, professor of political science at the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, specialist in Afghanistan and author in 2021 of the book The Transnational Government of Afghanistan – Such a Predictable Defeat, with our colleagues at Franceinfo. Ahmad Massoud’s father, Ahmed Shah Massoud, nicknamed the Lion of Panchir, had been a hero of the anti-Soviet resistance and then against the Taliban, before being killed in an attack, two days before the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Who are the actors of the resistance in this region?

If the Taliban have almost completely taken control of Afghanistan, two men still stand in their way: Ahmad Massoud, the son of the famous commander Ahmed Shah Massoud, assassinated in 2001 by Al-Qaeda, and the former vice-president. Afghan President, Amrullah Saleh, who organize the resistance from the lands of Panchir. Earlier this week, several images of the two men, appearing to lay the foundation stone for what would be a rebellion against the new regime in place, were posted on social networks.

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On Tuesday, the former vice-president, Amrullah Saleh, himself a native of Panchir, promised that he would not submit to the Taliban under any circumstances, even going so far as to declare himself legitimate president. “In accordance with the Afghan Constitution, in the event of the president’s absence, flight, resignation or death, the first vice president becomes the interim president. I am currently in my country and I am the legitimate interim president. I appeal to all leaders to obtain their support and consensus, ”he wrote on his Twitter account in English on Tuesday.

“I will not disappoint the millions of people who have listened to me. I will never be under the same roof as the Taliban. NEVER “, had he already tweeted on Sunday, just before going underground.

In a column published in the French review Rules of the GameOn Monday, Ahmad Massoud announced that he intended to resist the Taliban, claiming to want to make “his” the fight of his father, a hero of the resistance against the Soviet occupation, for freedom. In a second gallery at Washington post, he claims to have been joined in the Panchir by soldiers of the Afghan army “disgusted with the surrender of their commanders”, as well as by former members of the Afghan special forces.

Can the region once again become the symbol of resistance?

If this resistance is causing a stir, it is however unlikely to gain momentum and succeed, estimated with AFP Gilles Dorronsoro: “The resistance is for the moment verbal, because the Taliban do not did not seek to penetrate the Panchir. “

Because, for the researcher, the situation “is quite radically different” than under Commander Massoud: “Formerly, Commander Massoud had the Panshir, but he also controlled the North-East, that is to say he had access to a sanctuary in neighboring Tajikistan. Today, Panshir is completely surrounded by Taliban forces which are local forces. There is therefore no strategic space, ”he added to Franceinfo. Militarily, “it is not going anywhere”, according to the specialist. “The Taliban just have to lock up the Panchir and voila, you don’t even have to really enter it.” “

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