The Taliban engaged in overnight battles with the budding resistance forces in northern Afghanistan as political negotiations on a broader government moved ahead in Kabul and access to the city’s U.S.-run airport remained difficult for thousands of Afghans trying to flee the country’s new regime.
While most of Afghanistan’s army and security forces collapsed, some of the Taliban’s most dedicated foes have retreated to the Panjshir valley northeast of Kabul, pledging to continue the fight. They include the fallen Afghan republic’s defense minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi; Vice President Amrullah Saleh, who claims to be Afghanistan’s legitimate leader after President Ashraf Ghani abandoned his duties and fled the country last Sunday; and Ahmad Massoud, a son of famous Panjshiri commander Ahmad Shah Massoud.
Video posted on social media showed casualties and fighting between Taliban forces and anti-Taliban militias in the Andarab valley of the northern Baghlan province, and large convoys of Taliban reinforcements in U.S.-bought Ford Rangers and Humvees flying the Islamist movement’s white flag. It isn’t clear whether the clashes heralded a nascent civil war or were just a way by the Panjshiri establishment, which played a powerful role in post-2001 Afghanistan, to press the Taliban for a share of a new government. Without outside support or access to a border with a friendly nation, the anti-Taliban militias would find it difficult to hold out for long.
“We will fight. Our resistance will continue,” prominent Tajik warlord Atta Mohammad Noor, who fled to Uzbekistan when the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif fell on Aug. 14, promised in a video address. It was in the Taliban’s interest, he added, not to repeat the mistakes of the past and to create a “meaningful” inclusive government. “We will not become slaves of outsiders,” he added. “We will not go to others’ tables for decoration, we want to be a partner in power.”
Though the Taliban have never dismantled the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan that they proclaimed in 1996, they are pursuing consultations with major Afghan politicians who have remained in Kabul. A broader administration stands a much better chance of achieving international diplomatic recognition, something that would allow Afghanistan to be reconnected to the global financial system, resume commercial flights abroad, or regain access to foreign aid.