Meet The Anti-Taliban Fighters Defending Afghanistan's Last Safe Haven

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Afghan resistance movement and anti-Taliban uprising forces take part in military training at the Abdullah Khil area of Dara district in Panjshir province on August 24, 2021 (Photo: AHMAD SAHEL ARMAN via AFP via Getty Images)
Afghan resistance movement and anti-Taliban uprising forces take part in military training at the Abdullah Khil area of Dara district in Panjshir province on August 24, 2021 (Photo: AHMAD SAHEL ARMAN via AFP via Getty Images)

Afghanistan’s Panjshir district is home to a growing resistance movement which has not yet fallen to the Taliban.

National Resistance Front (NRF) is made up of former Afghan government forces and based in the famous Panjshir valley.

The district is currently housing more than 1,000 displaced people and has become a safe place for those who feel especially threatened by the Taliban, who took over Afghanistan more than a week ago.

This includes women, human rights activists, intellectuals, politicians and children. They’re all being well protected, too, by anti-Taliban soldiers.

The valley itself is famously impenetrable, having fought off Soviet threats between 1979 and 1989, and then the Taliban repeatedly throughout the 90s.

Afghan resistance movement and anti-Taliban uprising forces take part in military training at the Abdullah Khil area of Dara district in Panjshir province on August 24, 2021 (Photo: AHMAD SAHEL ARMAN via Getty Images)
Afghan resistance movement and anti-Taliban uprising forces take part in military training at the Abdullah Khil area of Dara district in Panjshir province on August 24, 2021 (Photo: AHMAD SAHEL ARMAN via Getty Images)
Afghan resistance movement and anti-Taliban uprising forces personnel patrol on an armoured humvee at an outpost in Kotal-e Anjuman of Paryan district in Panjshir province on August 23, 2021 (Photo: AHMAD SAHEL ARMAN via Getty Images)
Afghan resistance movement and anti-Taliban uprising forces personnel patrol on an armoured humvee at an outpost in Kotal-e Anjuman of Paryan district in Panjshir province on August 23, 2021 (Photo: AHMAD SAHEL ARMAN via Getty Images)

Panjshir is not just a safe haven against the Taliban

The district has now become a hub for a military movement which aims to stand up to the Taliban, while also protecting those who feel targeted by the terror group.

The resistance is led by Ahmad Massoud, son of the late Ahmad Shah Massoud, the famous guerrilla commander who fought off the USSR in the 90s and led the Tajiks.

Massoud even penned an op-ed in the Washington Post on Thursday calling for the US to provide weapons to the growing resistance.

The resistance’s head of foreign relations, Ali Nazary, also told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme they had “thousands of forces ready for the resistance”.

The resistance fighters carry assault rifles, grenades and walkie-talkies.

One told Al Jazeera news agency: “We are going to rub their faces in the ground.”

But the resistance will only rise up against the Taliban if the militants are not prepared to negotiate governance in Afghanistan and launch an offensive.

Massoud said: “If Taliban warlords launch an assault, they will of course face staunch resistance from us.”

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Will they fall to the Taliban?

The Taliban maintain that they have now surrounded the Panjshir valley and put the area under siege.

The country’s former vice-president Amrullah Saleh, based in Panjshir, also tweeted that the Taliban was closing in on the region on Monday.

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Many fear that, despite the valley’s impressive history, the narrow redoubt has been cut off from the outside world by the Taliban and may soon have dwindling supplies.

According to the New York Times, resistance commander Hamid Saifi said: “We’re waiting for some opportunity, some support. Maybe some countries will be ready for this great work. So far, all countries we talked to are quiet.

“America, Europe, China, Russia, all of them are quiet.”

There are concerns that backing Taliban resisters could inflame relations with the Taliban.

US president Joe Biden has already agreed to withdraw all troops by August 31 to avoid the “consequences” the terror group have threatened to impose.

But Nazary remained confident of the resistance’s ability to fight them off.

He claimed to the BBC that the group had “proven ourselves” over the last 40 years and shown “no-one is able to conquer our reign”.

He added: “The Taliban are overstretched. They cannot be everywhere at the same time. Their resources are limited. They do not have support amongst the majority.”

Nazary also made it clear that it might not even come to that.

He said: “We prefer peace, we prioritise peace and negotiations. If this fails – if we see that the other side is not sincere, if we see that the other side is trying to force itself on the rest of the country – then we’re not going to accept any sort of aggression.”

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.

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