May 22, 2022

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Taliban gain ground in Panjshir and warn Washington of danger of civil war

Taliban gain ground in Panjshir and warn Washington of danger of civil war

Kabul (AFP)

The Taliban announced on Sunday that they have made gains in the Panjshir Valley, the last major stronghold of armed resistance to the new Afghan government, where, according to Washington, a civil war could erupt.

Since the US forces left the country on August 30, the forces of the Islamic movement have launched several attacks against this valley, located 80 km north of Kabul and difficult to access.

Panjshir Valley is an ancient anti-Taliban stronghold, proclaimed by legendary leader Ahmed Shah Massoud in the late 1990s, before he was assassinated by al-Qaeda in 2001. Today it is home to the National Resistance Front (FNR).

Led by Ahmed Massoud, son of Major Massoud, the National Resistance Front consists of local militias and former members of the Afghan security forces who arrived in the valley when the rest of the country fell to Islamists.

According to the Italian non-governmental emergency organization based in Panjshir, Taliban forces arrived on Friday evening in the town of Annaba, located about 25 kilometers from the 115-kilometer valley.

Anti-Italian resistance militiamen in the Panjshir Valley, Afghanistan, on September 1, 2021 Ahmad SAHEL ARMAN AFP

The non-governmental organization added in a statement that “many people have fled the villages of the area in recent days,” in which it stated that it had treated “a small number of wounded at the Annaba Surgical Center.”

For his part, a Taliban official said on Twitter, that various parts of the Panshir were already in the hands of the regime, while Ali Maysam Nazari, a spokesman for the Front, stressed on Facebook that the resistance “will never fail.”

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– ‘Rebuilding the base’ –

Some of the statements contradict those of former Vice President Amrullah Saleh, the most grim, who said from Panjshir that a “large-scale humanitarian crisis” was occurring with thousands of displaced people after the “Taliban attack”.

Communications with the Panjshir Valley are very complex and AFP has not been able to confirm this information or the actual progress of the Taliban in the area with any independent source.

Faced with this chaotic situation, the US Army Chief of Staff, General Mark Milley, considered that “conditions of civil war” were “likely to meet” in Afghanistan.

“I think that, at the very least, there is a very strong possibility of a civil war that ‘could’ lead to the rebuilding of al-Qaeda or the strengthening of ISIS. [el grupo Estado Islámico] or from other terrorist groups.

On the political front, the formation of the new chief executive of the Taliban, who was scheduled to be presented on Friday, continued to be expected on Sunday.

Taliban soldiers at a checkpoint in central Kabul, September 4, 2021
Taliban soldiers at a checkpoint in central Kabul, September 4, 2021 Aamer Qureshi AFP

Meanwhile, the international community has warned that it will judge the Islamist movement, which has returned to power twenty years after it was ousted by a US-led coalition, for its actions.

The movement founded by Mullah Omar, since taking power on August 15, has promised to form an “inclusive” government and pledged to respect women’s rights that he trampled on during his last term (1996-2001).

Promises that are hard to believe for many. On Saturday, for the second day in a row, dozens of women demonstrated in Kabul to demand respect for their rights and participation in the future executive.

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– ‘A country without artists’ –

In the human domain, although the situation was still very critical, the sky was starting to clear.

Qatar announced that it sent 15 tons of humanitarian aid from around the world to Afghanistan on Saturday, and indicated that “in the coming days” flights will double in this regard.

A humanitarian aid shipment for Afghanistan at Manama Airport in Bahrain on September 4, 2021
A humanitarian aid shipment for Afghanistan at Manama Airport in Bahrain on September 4, 2021 Mazen Mahdi AFP

The United Nations, which this week warned of the possibility of an “imminent humanitarian catastrophe” in the country, will hold a meeting on September 13 to increase humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.

It’s been nearly three weeks since the Taliban took control of the country, and the diplomatic swing has already begun. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken will visit Qatar from Monday to Wednesday, a country that has been at the center of dialogue with the new Afghan government.

Pakistan’s military intelligence chief, Fayez Hamid, was seen in Kabul on Saturday, where he likely met Taliban officials with whom Islamabad has close ties.

Afghan directors Sahara Karimi (left) and Sarah Mane in Venice on September 4, 2021
Afghan directors Sahara Karimi (left) and Sarah Mane in Venice on September 4, 2021 Filippo Montfort AFP

And more than 5,000 kilometers from Kabul, the Afghan crisis reached the Venice Film Festival on Saturday, with two Afghan directors denouncing that the Taliban’s rise to power would plunge the arts world into a tragic situation.

“Imagine, a country without artists!” It was launched by Sara Karimi, the 38-year-old filmmaker who has won awards in many festivals.