Outgunned and Alone: Panjshir's Resistance Defeated by Taliban.

saurav sarkar

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Over a dozen of Taliban vehicles are burnt and twisted ruins, a testament to their ferocious fight.

"There were too many of them," says an elderly man in the Panjshir Valley of the last stand opposition fighters made against the Taliban's inexorable advance of Afghanistan.

Abdul Wajeed, leaning against the door of a shop in the village of Kheng, mentioned the group's forces to gather in September at the valley's mouth (north of Kabul.)

He'll never forget seeing hundreds of armored Taliban vehicles speeding across the small ravine.

He added, "There was nothing else we could do."

For three days, his hamlet and the National Resistance Forces (NRF), a combination of Panjshiri militants and remnants of the vanquished national army, had fired "heavy weaponry" from the valley's rocky cliffs.

More than a dozen Taliban vehicles are burnt and twisted ruins, a testament to their ferocious fight.

However, encouraged by overwhelming successes across the rest of the country and armed with an enormous weapons arsenal taken from the Afghan army, hardline Islamists maintained their relentless advance.

Attacks in waves -

"We were taken aback, and we didn't know what to do," stated one NRF fighter hiding in Panjshir. "We didn't have enough weaponry," says the narrator.

Khol Mohammad, 67, of Malaspa, a farming community surrounded by verdant fields, said the Islamists' convoy was so vast that it felt like "a thousand trucks full of Taliban" had stormed in.

Panjshir soldiers established a renowned reputation for resistance, defending their mountain homes for a decade against the Soviet forces, then during the civil war that followed, and finally against the first Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001.

Defenders have a natural advantage in the 115-kilometer (70-mile) valley, which is bordered by steep snow-capped peaks.

However, the region is no longer as isolated as it was two decades ago when experienced soldier Ahmad Shah Massoud led the Panjshiris to victory.

The Taliban began a multi-pronged onslaught on August 30, with some villagers alleging Panjshiri fighters were outmanned three to one.

- Rifles from the past -

Taliban commander Mullah Sanaullah Sangin Fatih told AFP that many of the Panjshiri firearms were decades old, as he showed off a large stash of weaponry and rockets that had been abandoned as opposition forces retreated.

It mostly dates from the Soviet occupation, Fatih explained.

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This is in sharp contrast to the contemporary armament at the Taliban's disposal.

The Islamists utilized a drone, according to one Panjshiri fighter, "which allowed them to quickly pinpoint and bomb our positions."

Aerial bombardments were reported by multiple witnesses, however, it was unclear who carried them out.

Some in Panjshir allege Pakistan of airstrikes against them, which Islamabad categorically denies.

Others have criticized the lack of leadership, claiming that Ahmad Massoud, the 32-year-old son of the famed fighter, lacks expertise and international support.

Ex-vice president Amrullah Saleh, the other leader, did little to bolster support.

"The elders chastised him for never having done anything for Panjshir when he visited in August to call on people to fight alongside him," a local journalist stated.

It's unclear what the resistance looks like now, or whether its leaders are still in the country.

- For the time being, keep calm -

The Taliban stormed Bazarak, Panjshir's capital, on September 6 and flew their white banner.

According to multiple people contacted by AFP, the valley is peaceful today, with the Taliban administration running "good."

The organization has renovated the tomb of Ahmad Shah Massoud, which was damaged by some of their fighters when they captured Bazark.

They claim they want to bring "peace and security" to Panjshir while also pursuing surviving resistance militants.

However, it reminded Khair Mohammad, an elder from Peshjrur hamlet, of the Soviet occupation.

"It was the same as before. They came, they said we could be friends right now, and we replied sure, of course "he recalled, a smile on his face.

Everyone knows what happened next.

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