Who is Ahmad Massoud, Key Leader of Anti-Taliban Resistance in ‘Last Free Region’ of Panjshir?


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Sputnik International

Despite the Taliban* seizing most of Afghanistan, including its capital, they do not have full control of the country. Their authority was not recognised by global powers, the previous president did not resign, and the vice president has named himself a caretaker president. Now a military threat is emerging 150 kilometres away from Kabul.

The Taliban* proclaimed victory and the end of violence in Afghanistan on 15 August after seizing Kabul without a fight, but some regions of the country decided they would not give up so quickly. The Panjshir Valley north of Kabul is the final major bastion of resistance to the Taliban.

Tucked away in the mountains, Panjshir has long had a reputation as a stronghold of resistance: back in the 1980s, legendary military commander Ahmad Shah Massoud successfully defended it during the Soviet invasion and the civil war with the Taliban. Now his son, Ahmad Massoud, is refusing to surrender to the Taliban, openly saying he has taken up the mantle of his father. Here is what you should know about the leader of the last force opposing the Taliban in the country:

  • Ahmad Massoud has promised that unlike many other regions of Afghanistan, Panjshir will not give up without a fight.

“I am the son of Ahmad Shah Massoud; surrender is not part of my vocabulary”, Massoud said.

  • The Taliban is apparently ready to put those statements to the test, claiming on 22 August that they had sent “hundreds” of fighters to deal with the “rebellious” province, located just 150 kilometres from Kabul.
  • Massoud said that his people “reject servitude” and want an inclusive and representative government.

© AP Photo / Zabi Karimi

Taliban fighters take control of Afghan presidential palace after the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021.

  • He also endorsed the Swiss model of internal power-sharing in Afghanistan, which his father proposed before his assassination in 2001 by the Taliban’s allies, al Qaeda*.
  • Massoud says his group proposed negotiations with the Taliban in order to build an inclusive government, but claims the insurgents rejected the suggestion that could have brought peace to Afghanistan.

What Forces Does Massoud Have Behind Him?

  • With Taliban fighters heading for the Panjshir Valley, it is still unclear how much of a fight Massoud and his men can put up, although there are some indications that the province might hold on longer than the rest of the country that the Taliban conquered within months.
  • The valley is surrounded by mountains with the only exit and entrance being a grove made by the Panjshir River, which can be relatively easy defended.
  • Massoud also summoned all the remaining fighters who oppose the Taliban’s rule to his banners, including the remnants of the US-trained Afghan Army, security, and special forces.

© AP Photo / Anja Niedringhaus

An Afghan Army soldier pauses before dropping his helmet and his gun next to his comrade’s equipment at a training facility in the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan on Wednesday, May 8, 2013.

  • The leader of the Panjshir “rebels” also called on foreign countries, including the US, to supply the group with weapons even though they chose to leave the country essentially allowing the Taliban to grab power.
  • Ahmad Massoud also gained some political traction after being endorsed and supported by Vice President Amrullah Saleh, who declared himself a caretaker president on 15 August, as well as by ex-Defence Minister Bismillah Mohammadi.
  • At the same time, Massoud hardly has the resources at the moment to drive the Taliban out of recently-conquered regions, including Kabul. No country has so far expressed readiness to support his cause, even though some, namely Moscow, have acknowledged his efforts.

*The Taliban and al Qaeda are terrorist organisations outlawed in Russia.

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