Tucked away in the mountains, the region has withstood forces wishing to tame its population for 200 years. The Taliban are the only ones who’ve got a second chance.
Holed up in the last remaining region of Afghanistan not to be captured by the Taliban, rebel commander Ahmad Massoud implored for help, in a recently op-ed, that he’s engaged in a fight for the “fate of Afghanistan but also for the West.”
Whether “the West” wants to fund Massoud’s mujahideen remains to be seen. But he was speaking from one of the most well-defended geographic positions in the country that has become synonymous with resistance: the Panjshir Valley.
Located in eastern Afghanistan, near the Afghan-Pakistan border, the Panjshir Valley has been a place that has garnered an almost mythical status when others have tried to take it.
In the 19th century, the region was untouched by the British Empire as they attempted to conquer Afghanistan. On a side note, the broader British occupation of Afghanistan was also a failure like America’s today.
Panjshir Valley, which also means the ‘five lions’, also proved to be a formidable place for the Soviets to conquer during their occupation of the country in the 1980s.
During this time, the invading Russians encountered fierce fighters from the then resistance led by a man known as the “Lion of Panjshir.” Headed by Ahmad Shah Massoud during the ten years of war that the country experienced, the Panjshir Valley remained unconquered.
“The Lion Tames the Bear in Afghanistan” was how one book described Shah Massoud’s defence of this strategic region.
Today the son of Shah Massoud, Ahmad Massoud, wants to lead a similar resistance but this time against the Taliban.
Retreating to the family’s safe haven and surrounded by the Taliban, the younger Massoud is seeking to rally an armed opposition by stirring the memory of his father and the region’s history.
Described by travel writers as a place of high mountains and outstanding natural beauty, the place has earned an important status in the minds of people in Afghanistan.
It was there also that Shah Massoud led his resistance towards the Taliban between 1996-2001, who were also unable to take over the region.
During that period and bringing together different Afghan factions, Shah Massoud created the Northern alliance, which controlled the Easter and northern part of the country.
At its height, the Northern Alliance accounted for more than 30 percent of the country’s population. By holding out against the Taliban for several years, the US worked with those ground forces to occupy the rest of the country and toppled the Taliban from power following the 9/11 contacts.
Shah Massoud was assassinated two days before the September 11 attacks, which were blamed on Al Qaeda.
The Panjshir Valley over and again has robbed outside conquerors of the ability to monopolise their rule, a thorn in the side of those trying to indicate that their rule over the country is absolute.
As long as one region held out and frustrated those trying to hold Kabul, the fear any new ruler may have is that resistance undermines the perception of power.
Today, however, this Panjshir Valley, which, unlike previous times, is now entirely surrounded by the Taliban, is seeking to mount yet another resistance.
The Americans or the Russians, two superpowers that have now been defeated in Afghanistan, are unlikely to start meddling again so soon.
During the time of the Northern Alliance, the Iranians were also supporting this grouping against the Taliban. Now the Iranians have come to terms with the Taliban.
Without backing and with the Taliban’s lighting takeover in the country is indicative that Ahmad Massoud will have fewer resources than even his father to mount a resistance.
In his op-ed, he said, “We have stores of ammunition and arms that we have patiently collected since my father’s time because we knew this day might come.”
However, if the Taliban mount a military attack, Ahmad Massoud said, “our military forces and logistics will not be sufficient. They will be rapidly depleted unless our friends in the West can find a way to supply us without delay.”
Having just made history after the American withdrawal and with the ghost in their sails, the Taliban may be tempted to knock another prized victory and tame the ‘five lions.’
Source: TRT World