The Taliban said on Sunday that “hundreds” of its fighters are going to the Panjshir Valley, an area that is not controlled by the group.
“Hundreds of [Taliban members] of the Islamic Emirate are heading towards the state of Panjshir to control it, after local state officials refused to hand it over peacefully,” the terrorist group wrote on its Arabic Twitter account on Sunday.
Ahmad Massoud, one of the leaders of the anti-Taliban resistance movement in Panjshir, said he hopes that his coalition would hold peace talks with the Taliban, adding that his forces are ready to fight. Panjshir has remained a resistance area in Afghanistan for decades as Massoud’s father, Ahmad Shah Massoud, helped defend the region during Soviet times and when the Taliban ruled in 1996 to 2001.
“We want to make the Taliban realize that the only way forward is through negotiation,” he told the Reuters news agency, speaking from Panjshir, located in the northeastern part of the country. “We do not want a war to break out.”
As the Taliban control most of Afghanistan, including its largest cities, some analysts have said that the anti-Taliban group will have a difficult time trying to defend Panjshir for long.
“The resistance for the moment is just verbal because the Taliban have not yet tried to enter the Panjshir,” Afghan specialist Gilles Dorronsoro from Sorbonne University in Paris told the AFP news agency. Dorronsoro noted that Massoud lacks the leadership capacity of his father.
Abdul Sayed, an independent researcher, added to the news agency that the Taliban “surround Panjshir from all sides,” meaning that Massoud’s resistance force may not “resist much more than a couple of months. For the moment, he does not have any really strong support.”
The Taliban took control of Afghanistan in just over a week, capturing Kabul and the presidential palace on Aug. 15. It came as U.S. troops pulled out of the restive South Asian nation after 20 years, triggering extensive chaos at the Kabul airport as throngs of people try to enter to flee the group’s rule.
Army Major General William Taylor said on Saturday that 5,800 U.S. troops remain at the airport, which “remains secure.”
And the United States on Sunday ordered several commercial airlines to help transport people after their evacuation from Afghanistan. The Pentagon said it called up 18 commercial aircraft from United Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air, and others to carry evacuees from temporary locations, which include a dozen countries across Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia.
Reuters contributed to this report.