The Taliban have said that hundreds of their fighters are heading for the Panjshir Valley for what might be the final showdown with the forces under the leadership of former Afghan vice-president Amrullah Saleh.
"Hundreds of Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate are heading towards the state of Panjshir to control it, after local state officials refused to hand it over peacefully," the group wrote on its Arabic Twitter account on Sunday. The group also posted a video showing vehicles bearing the Taliban flag moving along a road.
'Taliban Fighters Have Gathered in Large Numbers at the Entrance of Panjshir'
Amrullah Saleh, who has declared himself to be the acting President of Afghanistan, has made the announcement of Taliban fighters reaching the Panjshir entrance.
"Talibs have massed forces near the entrance of Panjshir a day after they got trapped in ambush zones of neighboring Andarab valley & hardly went out in one piece. Meanwhile Salang highway is closed by the forces of the Resistance. 'There are terrains to be avoided'. See you," Saleh said on Twitter on Monday.
Panjshir Is Long Known as An Anti-Taliban Bastion
Since the Taliban overran Afghanistan, flickers of resistance have begun to emerge with some ex-government troops gathering in the Panjshir, north of Kabul, long known as an anti-Taliban bastion, reported Al Jazeera.
Panjshir is the epicenter of the resistance led by Ahmad Massoud and Amrullah Saleh, the first Vice President from Ghani's cabinet. Ahmad Massoud is the son of Ahmad Shah Massoud, a prominent leader of Afghanistan's resistance against Soviet control in the 1980s.
The flag of the 'Northern Alliance' or the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan has been hoisted for the time since 2001 in Panjshir valley. Taliban have not ever entered Panjshir valley as it always fought against the Islamist insurgents under Ahmad Shah Massoud's command until 2001. Both Saleh and Massoud have called on Afghans to join the resistance against Taliban.
'If Taliban Warlords Launch an Assault, They Will Face Staunch Resistance'
Massoud has assembled resistance forces in Panjshir. The forces are comprised of the remainder of Afghanistan's special forces and army units as well as some local fighters, according to Reuters.
Massoud said he wanted a dialogue with the Taliban but his forces were ready to fight them. "We want to make the Taliban realize that the only way forward is through negotiation," he was quoted as saying by Reuters. "We do not want a war to break out."
Multiple media reports suggested that on Sunday, the Taliban had asked Massoud to surrender. He said that they would not surrender and that the locals were ready to fight. Massoud also said that he and his supporters wanted a peaceful solution and were ready to negotiate an inclusive government with the Taliban, but the group declined the offer.