The leader of the Afghan opposition organization resisting the Taliban forces in the Panjshir Valley north of Kabul said that he welcomes the proposal of religious scholars to negotiate an end to the fighting.
The head of the National Resistance Front (NRF) in Afghanistan, Ahmed Masood, announced the news on the organization’s Facebook page on Sunday. Earlier, the Taliban troops stated that they had entered Panjshir, the provincial capital, after ensuring the safety of the surrounding areas.
Three weeks ago, the Taliban took control of other parts of Afghanistan and took power in Kabul on August 15 after the collapse of the Western-backed government and the escape of President Ashraf Ghani from the country.
“NRF agreed in principle to resolve current issues and immediately end the fight and continue negotiations,” Masood said in a Facebook post.
“In order to achieve a lasting peace, the NRF is ready to stop fighting on the condition that the Taliban also cease attacks and military operations against Panjshir and Andalab,” he said, referring to an area in the neighboring province of Baghlan.
He said that a large gathering of all parties could be held with the Ulema Committee of Religious Scholars.
Earlier, Afghan media reported that religious scholars called on the Taliban to accept a negotiated settlement to end the fighting in Panjshir.
The Taliban did not immediately respond.
NRF spokesperson Fahim Dashti said on Sunday that “violent clashes” were taking place in the Panjshir Valley.
According to NRF, it surrounded “thousands of terrorists” in Khawak Pass, and the Taliban surrounded abandoned vehicles and equipment in the Dashte Rewak area.
Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford reported from the capital Kabul. Local sources said hundreds of Taliban fighters were captured on Sunday.
“Sources in the valley said that the NRF claimed to have captured approximately 1,500 Taliban. Apparently, these fighters were surrounded,” Stratford said.
“There is growing concern that there are estimated 150,000 to 200,000 people in the valley. All communications have been cut off. We also know that the Taliban also cut off the electricity supply, so it is difficult to obtain independent verification of what happened.”
However, Taliban spokesman Bilal Karimi said that their troops have entered the provincial capital Bazarak and seized large amounts of weapons and ammunition.
Karimi said on Twitter that the opposition forces suffered heavy casualties.
Masood led a force composed of remnants of the Afghan regular army and special forces and local militias. He called for a settlement with the Taliban before the fighting broke out about a week ago.
There were several negotiations, but in the end they all failed. Both sides blamed the failure on the other side.
Panjshir is a rugged valley in the mountains of northern Kabul. It is still littered with the wreckage of Soviet tanks destroyed during the prolonged war to clear the existence of the Soviet Union in the 1980s. It has proven to be very difficult to overcome in the past.
Under the leadership of Masoud’s late father, Ahmad Shah Massoud, the region has long resisted the control of the invading Soviet army and the Taliban government that previously ruled from 1996 to 2001.
But this effort was aided by the supply line to the northern border, which was closed last month after the Taliban achieved a full victory.
The Panjshir battle has always been the most prominent example of resistance to the Taliban. However, small individual protests were held in different cities to fight for women’s rights or defend the green, red, and black tricolor flag of Afghanistan.
At the same time, officials said on Sunday that at least four chartered planes had evacuated hundreds of people trying to escape the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, but were unable to leave the country for several days. There are conflicting statements about why they could not take off because the pressure has increased. The United States helps those who stay behind to escape.
An Afghan official at Mazar-e-Sharif Airport in the northern city of Afghanistan said that these potential passengers are Afghans, many of whom do not have passports or visas and therefore cannot leave the country. He said they left the airport after the situation was resolved.
However, the top Republican of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US House of Representatives stated that the organization includes Americans who are sitting on planes, but the Taliban will not let them take off, which is actually “holding them hostage.” Michael McCall did not specify the source of this information. Unable to reconcile immediately.