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RFE/RL Gandhara

Afghan Resistance Fighters In Panjshir Battle Taliban As Thousands Head To Borders

By RFE/RL September 01, 2021

More clashes have been reported between the Taliban and resistance forces in an area northeast of Kabul where the militants have yet to seize power, as thousands of people looking to flee the country continue to head to Afghanistan's borders after the withdrawal of U.S. forces put an end to a massive airlift.

The Taliban on September 1 called on the holdout bastion of the rugged Panjshir Valley to lay down their arms after renewed the resistance fighters said they had repulsed militant attacks.

At the Torkham crossing with Pakistan, a Pakistani official said that "a large number" of people are waiting on the Afghanistan side of the frontier for it to open.

Witnesses were quoted as saying that thousands of Afghans had also flocked to the Islam Qala border post with Iran.

Since the Western-backed government and Afghan Army collapsed under a lightning Taliban offensive, thousands of Afghans have fled their homes fearing a repeat of the Taliban's brutal rule between 1996 and 2001.

The National Resistance Front (NRF), comprising anti-Taliban militia fighters and former Afghan security forces, has vowed to defend Panjshir Valley, 100 kilometers northeast of the capital, as the Islamist group sends more fighters to encircle it.

Former Defense Minister Bismillah Mohammadi said a renewed assault launched by the Taliban overnight was "defeated," while claiming that 34 Taliban fighters were killed and 65 wounded in a second day of fighting after foreign troops left the country to meet an August 31 deadline for their withdrawal.

The United States and its allies evacuated more than 123,000 people out of Kabul since August 14, the day before the Taliban regained control of the country two decades after being removed from power by the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

But tens of thousands of Afghans Afghans who had helped Western nations oust the militants during a 20-year war and others at risk remained behind.

Britain said on September 1 it was in talks with the Taliban to secure "safe passage" out of Afghanistan for a number of British nationals and Afghans who remain inside the country.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told an emergency session of a foreign affairs select committee on September 1 that intelligence assessments did not predict such a swift Afghan capitulation to the Taliban as foreign troops pulled out.

"The central assessment that we were operating that the most likely, the central proposition was that, given the troop withdrawal by the end of August, you would see a steady deterioration from that point, and that it was unlikely Kabul would fall this year," Raab told parliamentarians.

"That doesn't mean we didn't do contingency planning or game-out or test the other propositions. And just to be clear, that's something that was widely shared -- that view -- amongst NATO allies," Raab said.

Raab also told the lawmakers that he was leaving later on September 1 to travel "to the region" around Afghanistan to discuss efforts to rescue people left behind after the troop pullout.

He did not say which countries he would visit, citing security reasons.

In a resolution, the UN Security Council has urged the Taliban to allow safe passage for those seeking to leave Afghanistan.

The militants have promised to allow Afghans to leave and return to the country, but many remain in doubt about the hard-line Islamist group's intentions.

Meanwhile, the administrative vacuum accompanying the Taliban's takeover has left foreign donors unsure of how to respond to warnings of a looming humanitarian crisis in the war-torn country.

The Taliban has yet to name a new government or reveal how it intends to govern, unlike in 1996, when a leadership council was formed within hours of taking the capital.

The foreign minister of neighboring Pakistan, which has close ties to the Taliban, said on August 31 that he expected Afghanistan to have a new "consensus government" within days.

The Islamist militia focused on keeping banks, hospitals and government machinery running after the final withdrawal of U.S. forces on Monday brought an end to a massive airlift of Afghans who had helped Western nations during the 20-year war.

As the world watches to see if the Taliban lives up to its promises of a more tolerant and open brand of rule compared with their first stint in power, and with foreign donors unsure how to respond to a looming humanitarian crisis, the group said its leader Mullah Hibatullah had wrapped up a three-day consultative meeting with tribal and religious elders in the southern city of Kandahar.

Meanwhile, the Taliban prepared to stage a parade in Kandahar showcasing Humvees and other military hardware they captured during their takeover of Afghanistan, AFP reported.

The Taliban has declared an amnesty for all Afghans who worked with foreign forces during the war that ousted it from power, said it was in talks with "all factions" to reach an agreement on a future government, and repeatedly promised a more tolerant and open brand of rule compared with their first stint in power.

However, many reports have said summary executions and house to house searches for those who worked with international groups or the previous government are occurring across the country.

The Taliban declared victory in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of U.S. troops, with fighters streaming into Kabul airport on August 31.

A Qatari aircraft reportedly landed in Kabul carrying a "technical team" to discuss the resumption of operations at the airport, which U.S. officials have said is in bad condition.

"While no final agreement has been reached regarding providing technical assistance, Qatar's technical team has initiated this discussion based on the other sides' request," AFP quoted a source with knowledge of the matter as saying.

The goal was to resume flights for both humanitarian aid and to provide freedom of movement, including the resumption of evacuation efforts, the source said.

Meanwhile, a senior board member of the Afghan central bank urged the U.S. Treasury and the International Monetary Fund to take steps to provide the Taliban-led government some access to Afghanistan's reserves, telling Reuters that the country risks an "inevitable economic and humanitarian crisis."

In Slovenia, European Council President Charles Michel said on September 1 that the 27-member bloc should take action to be better prepared for evacuations of its citizens in situations such as occurred in Afghanistan.

"In my view, we do not need another such geopolitical event to grasp that the EU must strive for greater decision-making autonomy and greater capacity for action in the world," he told a forum ahead of an EU defense ministers' meeting.

The president of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, at the same forum criticized EU members' failure to take in significant numbers of Afghans fleeing that country.

"We have seen countries outside the EU come forward to welcome Afghan asylum seekers, but we have not seen a single member state do the same," Sassoli said.

This story includes reporting by Radio Azadi correspondents on the ground in Afghanistan. Their names are being withheld for their protection.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, the BBC, and dpa

Source: flock-to-borders/31438491.html

Copyright (c) 2021. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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