Taliban ‘seizes last holdout province’ amid talks with UN officials to restore humanitarian aid



The Taliban has seized Panjshir province, a restive mountain region that was the final holdout of resistance forces in the country, cementing its total control over Afghanistan a week after US forces departed the country.

aliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement that the Islamist group had “completely conquered” the Panjshir Valley. “Our last efforts for establishing peace and security in the country have given results,” he said.

Taliban officials shared a photo on social media yesterday that purported to show their fighters taking control of local administrative buildings.

A senior official of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRF), who spoke on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that the Taliban had taken over. “Yes, Panjshir has fallen. Taliban took control of government offices. Taliban fighters entered into the governor’s house,” the person said.

But on Twitter, the NRF said its forces remained “in all strategic positions across the valley to continue the fight” and that the “Taliban’s claim of occupying Panjshir is false.”

Ahmad Massoud, head of the resistance, is “at (a) safe place,” the official said. (Mr Massoud also confirmed his safety in a tweet yesterday morning, according to Reuters.) The person added that Amrullah Saleh, an anti-Taliban leader who had served as vice-president of the ousted government, had fled for Tajikistan. 
Afghan troops who had been trained by Western governments in the past two decades would be asked to rejoin the country’s security forces alongside Taliban fighters, Mujahid said at a news conference yesterday, according to Tolo News.  

Some members of the resistance denied that the Taliban had occupied the Panjshir. The NRF said in a Facebook post that “the people of Afghanistan should be assured that the resistance will continue until the freedom and justice is achieved by God’s help.”

The Taliban victory followed a period of heavy fighting between resistance guerrillas and Afghanistan’s new rulers. Resistance fighters set up a base in the Panjshir Valley, days after the Taliban seized control of Kabul last month.

News of the conquest came after a brutal weekend that placed the Taliban’s treatment of women in the spotlight as it prepares to announce Afghanistan’s new leadership and welcomes a resumption of international aid that could be contingent on the new regime protecting basic human rights.

A policewoman was beaten and shot dead by Taliban militants at her home in the Ghowr province on Saturday, the BBC reported. The Taliban denied killing the woman – who, according to reports, was eight months pregnant – and said it was investigating the incident.

Separately, a Taliban spokesman told the Guardian that the group had detained four men who allegedly struck female protesters during a Saturday demonstration against the Taliban’s extreme interpretation of Islamic law, which sharply curtails women’s political rights.

As the Taliban swept to power last month, the group sought to convince the world that it won’t return to the harsh rule it imposed when it last controlled the country, from 1996 to 2001.  

The latest developments add to recent reports of reprisal killings across the country. They could make it harder for the Taliban to convince world leaders to resume the flow of foreign aid that has largely been frozen since it took over Afghanistan.

Taliban officials met in Kabul on Sunday with the United Nations undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs, who promised to maintain assistance for the Afghan ­people, a Taliban spokesman said.

The UN has warned of an impending humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, where foreign aid made up much of the previous Western-backed government’s budget.

Meanwhile, in Mazar-i Sharif, airplanes with Americans and interpreters have been waiting on the ground for days amid conflicting reports that they are being held up either by the Taliban or awaiting US State Department clearance for departure.

© Washington Post



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