A civil war between the Afghan resistance in the Panjshir Valley and the Taliban appears likely as ongoing attempts to find a peaceful resolution are failing, according to the brother of Northern Alliance commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was assassinated by al-Qaida in 2001.
Ahmad Wali Massoud, formerly the Afghan ambassador to the U.K., told Yahoo News that so far the dialogue between the groups has not resolved the conflict in Panjshir province, the last part of the country not under Taliban control.
Massoud made the comments on Wednesday evening, after days of clashes between the militant groups broke out from different borders of the region.
Fahim Dashti, a spokesman for the anti-Taliban group National Resistance Forces, said violence in the area Monday had resulted in the deaths of eight Taliban members as well as two of its own fighters.
Videos on social media purported to show a “convoy” of Taliban troops heading toward the province on Tuesday.
“What we really proposed was ‘Let’s talk, let’s talk peace,’ but the way the Taliban responds ... is not very positive,” Massoud said.
Civil war is “very likely,” he said. “The Taliban will not accept [the deal], they will start the war fighting. We have to resist, we have to defend ourselves. ... The next step would be an all-out war in Afghanistan.”
One of the challenges in facing off against the Taliban now is that the resistance this time around is a significantly weaker force than the Northern Alliance was some 20 years ago, and it controls less territory. It also lacks the international support the Northern Alliance enjoyed at one time.
Massoud, who is currently in London, is planning to travel to conferences across Europe in an attempt to help the resistance campaign before returning to the Panjshir region.
He said the group proposed a power-sharing deal with the Taliban, which would offer a decentralized government and equally represent the different ethnic groups across the country. The proposal suggested a local government in each province.
“Afghanistan is made up of almost 30 ethnicities — four of them are major: Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek. So we need a mechanism, a system in which we can live with each other, as well as with an international community,” Massoud said.
As part of the proposal, the resistance group wanted to “find the middle ground” on issues with the Taliban, Massoud said, leading to a solution that benefits the whole country. But he admitted that at the moment, the Taliban are not open to listening to peaceful requests.
“At the moment, they have a mindset of violence, of intimidation,” he said. “They will not agree to listen logically.”
Despite the recent clashes, Massoud said the mood on the ground in Panjshir was “very high,” and that the people are proud to be standing up “ready to defend themselves.”
The comments come as his nephew, Ahmad Massoud, is following in his late father’s footsteps in leading the anti-Taliban resistance movement.
Ahmad Shah Massoud, known as “the lion of Panjshir” for defending the naturally fortified province from the Taliban during its last takeover 25 years ago, was killed by suicide bombers dispatched by al-Qaida two days before 9/11.
“If he was alive, this situation would not have happened,” Ahmad Wali Massoud said of his brother, but added that he believed in his nephew’s ability to lead the resistance.
Reflecting on the differences between the current situation and the previous battles more than two decades ago, Massoud said that this time the resistance movement is more representative of modern Afghanistan and does not just include fighters in Panjshir province.
“Now the resistance has expanded so much, a lot of people are part of the resistance. The women of Afghanistan that do not believe in the Taliban as part of their beliefs, they are part of the resistance. The younger generation [is] part of the resistance; civil society [is] part of the resistance,” he said.
So far, National Resistance Forces has not received any offers of help from other countries, Massoud said, but he added that it has been in talks with political and military representatives from Pakistan.
“We said [to Pakistan], you are our neighbor, we have got 2,400 kilometers of border, our stability is completely tied with each other, you’ve got a lot of influence with the Taliban. Tell them to talk logically,” he said.
But aware of the consequences of working with other countries, the group does not want Afghanistan to become a battleground for a proxy war, Massoud said.
He said he was angry with the way the Biden administration handled the U.S. military withdrawal from the region. The U.S. ended its two-decade military involvement in Afghanistan on Aug. 31, a deadline agreed to with the Taliban.
“We really think of it as a betrayal on behalf of the Afghan people,” Massoud said. “If they wanted to come out, they could have come out in a disciplined way.
“Human rights, women’s rights, democracy, all of the rights that you introduced to us, and all of a sudden you sell us out to terrorists, to a [group] from the medieval dark ages,” he added. “It makes me feel really sad.”
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