The National Resistance Front (FNR) announced on Saturday that it had launched a major offensive against the Taliban in several provinces in northern Afghanistan, including that of Panchir where it claims to have liberated three districts.
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Isolated fighting has pitted the FNR against the Taliban for several months, but this is the first offensive launched by the group of Ahmad Massoud, the son of the legendary commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, since the fall in September of his stronghold in the valley. Panchir, 80 km north of Kabul.
“This is our first offensive since September,” Ali Maisam Nazary, head of foreign relations for the FNR, the main resistance group to the Taliban, told AFP. He specified that it related to “12 provinces in the country, mainly in the North”.
“Since Ahmad Massoud… ordered his forces last night to launch the offensive, three major districts of Panchir have been liberated,” he said.
“The FNR forces took the main roads, (Taliban) outposts and villages in these districts, and then besieged the Taliban in the district offices. Many Taliban asked for time to surrender,” he added, assuring that the enemy had suffered “heavy losses”.
Taliban government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied that any “military incidents” were taking place in Panchir or anywhere else in the country.
“Allegations launched by some insurgents in the media are false,” he said on Twitter. “There are thousands of well-equipped troops from the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in Panchir, (in the province of) Takhar and other areas.”
The FNR, which presents itself as the last democratic bulwark inside Afghanistan, was unable to prevent the Taliban, who came to power in mid-August, from taking the Panchir in early September, which Ahmad Shah Massoud had helped to make famous in the late 1980s before being assassinated by Al-Qaeda in 2001.
The Panchir fell neither under Soviet occupation in the 1980s nor during the Taliban’s rise to power a decade later and their first regime (1996-2001).
A meeting between Ahmad Massoud and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Amir Khan Muttaqi, followed by informal discussions between the FNR and a Taliban delegation in January in Tehran, had led to no progress, due to deep differences, in particular on the training of a truly inclusive government demanded by the FNR.