The United States promised to continue working with the new Taliban rulers to remove those they want to sideline, and the militants vowed to allow anyone with the proper legal documents to leave.
Experts had doubted that resistance to the Taliban in Panjshir, the last province to be excluded, could be successful in the long term despite the area’s geographic advantage. Nestled in the mighty Hindu Kush Mountains, the Panjshir Valley has a single narrow entrance. Local fighters held off the Soviets in the 1980s and also the Taliban a decade later under Massoud’s leadership.
Massoud’s son, Ahmad, had issued a statement on Sunday calling for an end to the fighting that had raged in recent days. The British-educated young Massoud said his forces were ready to lay down their arms, but only if the Taliban agreed to end their assault. Late on Sunday, dozens of vehicles loaded with Taliban fighters were seen invading the Panjshir Valley.
There has been no statement from Saleh, the former vice president of Afghanistan who had declared himself acting president after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country on August 15 when the Taliban arrived at the gates of the capital. The Taliban subsequently entered the presidential building that day.
The Taliban’s lightning bombardment across the country took less than a week to invade some 300,000 Afghan government soldiers, most of whom either surrendered or fled.
The whereabouts of Saleh and the young Massoud were not immediately known.
In his statement, Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, tried to assure the residents of Panjshir that they would be safe, even as dozens of families reportedly fled to the mountains before the arrival of the Taliban.
“We give full confidence to the honorable people of Panjshir that they will not be subjected to any discrimination, that they are all our brothers and that we will serve a country and a common goal,” Mujahid said in his statement.
The Taliban stepped up the assault on Panjshir on Sunday, tweeting that their forces had invaded Rokha district, one of the eight largest districts in the province. Several Taliban delegations have tried to negotiate with the holdouts there, but the talks have failed to gain ground.
Fahim Dashti, the spokesman for the anti-Taliban group, was killed in battle on Sunday, according to the group’s Twitter account. Dashti was the voice of the group and a prominent media personality during previous governments.
He was also the nephew of Abdullah Abdullah, a senior former government official involved in negotiations with the Taliban over the future of Afghanistan.
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