Taliban say they have retaken three northern districts seized by Afghan militias

Published August 23, 2021
Members of Taliban forces gesture as they check a vehicle on a street in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 16. — Reuters/File
Members of Taliban forces gesture as they check a vehicle on a street in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 16. — Reuters/File

Taliban forces have recaptured three districts in northern Afghanistan that fell to local militia groups last week, a spokesman said on Monday.

The districts of Bano, Deh Saleh and Pul-e-Hesar in Baghlan province were taken by local militia groups in one of the first signs of armed resistance to the Taliban since their seizure of the capital Kabul on August 15.

By Monday, Taliban forces had cleared the districts and were established in Badakhshan, Takhar and Andarab near the Panjshir valley, according to the Twitter account of spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.

Forces loyal to Ahmad Massoud, son of the anti-Soviet Mujahideen commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, have established themselves in the Panjshir valley, a mountainous area northwest of Kabul which resisted the Taliban before 2001.

Massoud, whose forces include remnants of regular army and special forces units, has called for negotiations to form an inclusive government for Afghanistan but has promised to resist if Taliban forces try to enter the valley.

Late on Sunday, the Taliban's Alemarah information service said hundreds of fighters were heading towards Panjshir but there has been no immediate confirmation of any fighting.

Zabihullah Mujahid said the Salang Pass, on the main highway running from southern Afghanistan to the north, was open and enemy forces were blockaded in the Panjshir valley. But his statement suggested that there was no fighting for the moment.

"The Islamic Emirate is trying to resolve the problems peacefully," Zabihullah said.

People close to Massoud say more than 6,000 fighters have gathered in the valley. They say they have some helicopters and military vehicles and have repaired some of the armoured vehicles left behind by the Soviets.

The gathered force underscores the problems that may face the Taliban as they begin to consolidate their rapid victory.

However, Western diplomats and others have expressed scepticism about the ability of the groups in Panjshir to mount an effective resistance given the lack of outside support and the need to repair and maintain weapons.

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