An anti-Taliban resistance group in Afghanistan claims it has thousands of militants ready to fight.
This is the Afghanistan National Resistance Front (FRN), whose head of Foreign Relations, Ali Nazari, told the BBC that his goal is to achieve a peaceful negotiation.
However, “if this fails … then not going to accept any form of aggression” , he added.
Meanwhile, the Taliban say they have surrounded the group in their stronghold in the Panjshir Valley and that they have its members under siege.
Resistance leaders also indicate that Taliban forces are advancing in the region northeast of the capital, Kabul.
Amrullah Saleh, a former vice president of the government ousted by the Taliban and who took refuge in Panjshir, tweeted that the Taliban had concentrated forces near the entrance to the valley.
Saleh, 48, declared himself president in charge of Afghanistan and in rebellion against the Taliban.
Also in the valley is Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, who served as Defense Minister in the last government.
The Panjshir region – in particular, the Panjshir Valley – is reputed to have resisted invasions , including by Soviet forces during the USSR war in Afghanistan between 1979 and 1989, as well as by the Taliban in the 1990s.
Now the region is still under the control of the FRN, which was founded by Ahmad Massoud, the son of the resistance hero Ahmad Shah Massoud.
On behalf of the FRN, Nazary told the BBC Radio 4 Today program that a recent influx of resistance forces from various parts of the country had reached Panjshir who have joined local fighters who have already trained.
He said the group had “thousands of forces ready for resistance” , although the BBC has not been able to independently confirm this claim.
“However, we prefer to seek peace and negotiation before resorting to war and conflict,” said the spokesman.
The ultimate goal of the FRN, he said, is to have a decentralized form of government in the country.
“The FRN believes that in order to have a lasting peace we have to address the underlying problems in Afghanistan,” he continued.
” Afghanistan is a country made up of ethnic minorities , no one is a majority. It is a multicultural state, so it needs power to be shared: a power-sharing agreement where everyone sees themselves in power.”
Having a single group dominating the policies will lead to “internal warfare and the continuation of the current conflict,” he said.
“We prefer peace, we prioritize peace and negotiations,” Nazary stressed. “If this fails – if we see that the counterpart is not sincere, if we see that it is trying to impose itself on the rest of the country – then we will not accept any form of aggression.”
“And we have already proven who we are, our [40-year] background has proven that no one is capable of conquering our region , especially the Panjshir valley.”
“The Red Army, with all its power, was unable to defeat us … I doubt that any force in Afghanistan today has the power of the Red Army. And the Taliban too, 25 years ago, tried to take over the valley and failed, suffered a devastating defeat”.
The Lion of Panjshir
Ahmad Shah Massoud, father of the FRN’s founder, was a legendary guerrilla commander who led the resistance against the USSR and later led the military wing of the Afghan government against rival militias in the 1990s.
After the Taliban took control of the country, he became the main opposition commander against that regime (in the so-called Northern Alliance) until he was assassinated in 2001.
Ahmad Shah Massoud is a revered warlord to many Afghans.
Nicknamed the Lion of Panjshir (Panjshir means “five lions”) his portrait can be found in many places in the Afghan capital, from monuments to billboards and shop windows, and throughout Panjshir province.
Since Massoud’s death in 2001 (two days before the 9/11 attacks, in a suicide bombing) the region has maintained its legacy of resistance among the people of Afghanistan in the fight against the Taliban, explained the Afghan service journalist. from the BBC Mariam Aman.
He was declared a national hero by President Hamid Karzai and, since 2012, his death anniversary has been commemorated every September 9 as the Day of the Martyrs and of Ahmad Shah Massoud.
For his part, the vice president of the last government, Amrullah Saleh, was part of the Northern Alliance and was Massud’s confidant.
Located 150 kilometers northeast of Kabul, the Panjshir Valley is the only one of the 34 provinces of Afghanistan that has not succumbed to the control of the Taliban and where the last stronghold of resistance against their rule is located.
The towering cliffs and gorges of Panjshir turn the territory into a natural fortress, with a bottleneck entrance and towering mountains that make access difficult.
Crossed by the Panjshir River, the valley is very close to the Hindu Kush range, a mountain range between Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan.
It was an important passageway for the armies of Alexander the Great and Tamerlane , the last of the great nomadic conquerors of Central Asia.
In addition, it has several resources such as emerald mines, hydroelectric dams and a wind farm. It is a very suitable location for guerrilla warfare, but it is not strategic.
The area currently has between 150,000 and 200,000 inhabitants , almost all of whom speak Persian and Tajik ethnicity, which are about a quarter of the 38 million people living in Afghanistan.
It is a historically anti-Taliban population.